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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Disney Disaster: Law Suit Possibility?

A British tourist lost parts of his ring and pinky fingers on his right hand while visiting Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The British tourist's mishap occurred on the Pirates of the Caribbean water ride. WDW Theme Parks (not affiliated with Disney World) holds itself out on Twitter as a source for Disney World News. It was recently tweeted that "evidently the hand was outside the boat on the drop."

It's truly a disheartening situation for the man, Disney World staff, and other park visitors.

What if a child witnessed this incident? What if you had spent even just a year following the Saving for Disney plan to take your child on a dream vacation? Do you think that a lawsuit against this man (who did not follow the rules of the ride) would be successful? After all, your child is now traumatized and the vacation is ruined. Disney is no longer the happiest place on earth.

If a child were to witness this sort of catastrophic event, it would definitely magnify this entire tragedy. After all, we are talking about an adult who knew or should have known that his hands should not leave the boat while the ride was in motion. Is there enough to sue for negligent infliction of emotional distress?

To sue someone for negligence, four elements must be met to show that what did or didn't happen was indeed negligent behavior. First, let's look at the elements and then we will compare them to the above story.

  1. Duty of care;
  2. Breach of duty;
  3. Causation; and
  4. Actual damages.
A duty of care means that you owed an actual duty to the people around. For instance, our staff owes a duty to our clients. Doctors have a duty to their patients. Parents have specific duties toward their minor children. So, first we must determine whether or not the tourist who was injured had a duty of care. The answer to this question is that there was probably not a duty of care (other than maybe to himself). These were total strangers to him. Yes, duty of care will arise toward total strangers when you operate a motor vehicle. However, there's generally not a duty of care for strangers when you are visiting an amusement park. Sure there are exceptions to the rule, but in this case there was most likely not a duty of care. He was a visitor just like our fictional family.

Breach of duty is a simple element. There must be a duty for it to be breached. If there is no duty of care, then that duty cannot be breached. 

For a negligence claim to succeed, the allegation must be the proximate cause of the harm. If a child witnessed this, then it would be safe to say yes. The accident would have been the proximate cause of the child's emotional distress. 

The final element is actual damages. The breach of said duty must cause actual damage in some capacity such as an injury or monetary damage. If our fictional family really couldn't finish their vacation because the child felt terrified then an actual damage may have occurred.

The elements of negligence would not be met in order for the man to be sued by someone who witnessed the event. 

Negligence can be a very interesting legal avenue. Do you think an action of negligence could be supported in a court of law? Why or why not? Join in the discussion. We'd love to hear from you. 

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