Many North Carolina residents likely heard about the toddler who was dragged into a lagoon by an alligator and killed on June 14. One legal observer says that Walt Disney World may be liable for both negligent infliction of emotional distress and wrongful death and that the damages could run into the millions.
Several Disney employees, speaking anonymously, said that they had warned the company about the proximity of the tourist accommodations to alligators and the frequency with which guests were seen feeding them. They said that the alligators had become acclimated to humans and saw them as food sources.
There were signs in the area that prohibited swimming but none that warned of gators. There was speculation that because some of the exclusive rooms in the area cost $2,000 per night, the company was reluctant to crack down on guest behavior despite the dangers. One former employee said that it was difficult to keep the gators out although there were efforts to move them to other areas that are uninhabited. There was also a report that at a different Disney resort, staff had reported guests feeding the alligators only to see people in the same spot doing the same thing the following day.
When an accident like this occurs due to inadequate security or for other reasons, the owner of the premises where it happens may be held responsible. In this case, if reports are true, the company might be considered negligent for not acting to better protect guests from alligators and warn them about the dangers. When a person files a civil lawsuit against an owner after being injured on the premises, it is only necessary in most cases to prove that the defendant was negligent by a preponderance of the evidence.