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Premises Liability And Assumption of Risk At Walt Disney World

The recent alligator attack at Walt Disney World has left many people wondering who is at fault for this tragic event. Is Walt Disney World at fault for not adequately warning tourists about the dangers of alligators? Were the guests at fault for not heeding the warning signs? Was it no one’s fault and just a terrible accident? Who is at fault for this heartbreaking incident will be legally determined by premises liability, the assumption of risk, and may even end up with a comparative fault ruling.

Premises Liability

Premises liability is the liability a property owner holds for the reasonable safety of people legally on their property. Walt Disney World is responsible for the safety of their guests and should prevent risks by removing, resolving, or warning guests about known hazards. The “No Swimming” signs posted around their lagoons is a form of warning. However, a court could prove that Walt Disney World did not adequately warn their guests about the dangers of being in the water including the presence of alligators. They could also prove that if they knew about the alligators and did not take steps to remove them, they could be at fault. In order to prove premise liability, an attorney would have to show the court that Walt Disney World was negligent in their responsibility to control, remove, or warn their guests about this danger.

Assumption Of Risk

On the other hand assumption of risk means that a person does something knowing that they are engaging in risky behavior. If a property owner has adequately warned a person against an action and they take that action anyway and it results in an injury, then they have assumed the liability of the risk. An attorney could argue that by being in water with a posted “No Swimming” sign, the guest has assumed the risk. In order to prove assumption of risk, an attorney would have to show that despite Walt Disney World’s adequate warnings, the guest was non compliant and therefore, responsible for the injury.

Comparative Fault Ruling

Florida is a comparative fault state which means that there could be a case made that both parties in the Walt Disney World incident were responsible for the accident. Walt Disney World was responsible for not adequately removing the hazard or warning their guests about the danger, while the guests are responsible for engaging in an activity where there were posted warning signs. In the case of a comparative fault ruling, the court would determine the degree of responsibility of each party and assign fault or award damages accordingly.

Who is at fault tragic events at Walt Disney World may eventually be decided in a settlement hearing or at a trial. These kinds of cases can be very difficult to resolve because it is hard to assign fault, especially when the loss was so great. Fault will depend on the discovery to see if Walt Disney World had adequately warned their guests of the dangers lurking in the lagoon or if the guests had assumed the risk. However whether either party is found at fault, this sad event highlights the importance of taking safety measures as both a property owner and a guest. We can only hope that going forward, these risks are mitigated so that this horrible event does not happen to another guest.