Is Disney liable for alligator attack that killed a 2-year-old?

Grand Floridian Resort Seven Seas Lagoon

By now you've heard the horror: A 2-year-old boy, wading in shallow water with his father outside a Disney resort in Florida, was snatched by an alligator, pulled into a lagoon and subsequently drowned.

According to media outlets, the boy's family was at a movie night outdoors at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort when the tragedy occurred at the Seven Seas Lagoon. On its website, the resort eerily describes the lagoon using the phrase "enjoy the placid waters."

Grand Floridian Google Map

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Beyond the horror, the question now is: Does the victim's family have recourse against the hotel, its owner and/or The Walt Disney Company. "No Swimming" signs reportedly are posted at the resort, as are Beware of Gator signs, still, is someone or something liable?

We asked just that to Karen Morris, 22 years Town Justice of Brighton, N.Y., who also writes HOTEL MANAGEMENT's Legally Speaking column.

Here's what she had to say about the frightful case:

This circumstance is so sad! The law imposes a duty on businesses, including resorts, to act reasonably to protect guests from foreseeable risks. This gives rise to two questions in circumstances where people are injured for any reason other than their own fault:

1) Was the risk that caused injury foreseeable to the resort? 

2) And if so, were adequate precautions taken by Disney? 

The answers to these questions are seldom black and white, clear-cut, or predictable. If a lawsuit is pursued, ultimately a jury or judge decides.

To date, the investigation reveals that there were recent alligator sightings in the lagoon from which the child was snatched. However, so far there have been no reports of alligators near the shore, and the last time an alligator attacked a human at Disney was, per the news, in 1986, three decades ago. Was the attack foreseeable?  

If the attack is determined to be foreseeable, the second question is then posed: Did Disney take sufficient cautionary action to prevent the tragedy that occurred? 

Per the news reports, numerous signs around the lagoon clearly state: No swimming. There apparently were no signs warning of alligator attacks. Were the signs sufficient?

You be the judge: How would you rule? 

Good question. We'd like to hear from you: Did Disney do enough to prevent this tragedy? Should they or the resort's owner be held accountable?

Tweet at us @HotelMgmtMag.

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