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“No Swimming” is not the same as “Danger, Alligators”

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Graves family, especially as they lay their son Lane to rest this week. As a father of two sons, who as toddlers, splashed in calm waters at many resorts, I can only imagine the pain and grief Matt and Melissa Graves are feeling and will feel their entire lives.

This tragic event has sparked many postings on social media sites, some informative, most not, which have included misinformation about personal injury law. As I have explained to many, our system of civil justice is based on the principle that each of us (individuals and businesses) is to act as a reasonable person would under the circumstances then existing.   In considering whether Disney’s conduct was reasonable, an issue will be whether a “No Swimming” sign was effective in warning guests of the true nature of the danger of swimming in the resort lagoon. In order for a warning to be effective, it must convey the true danger of the risk involved.

Disney’s  “No Swimming” signs did not mention the threat of alligators and consequently failed to effectively warn its patrons of the true danger of swimming in the lagoon. It may be second nature to Floridians that any body of water could house alligators, but this knowledge is lost on out-of-state visitors. Disney World, which hosts more visitors in a year than the Nation’s capital, has an obligation to effectively educate their patrons on the natural dangers within the park. “No Swimming” is not the same as “Danger, Alligators.” Had the latter signage been posted, Disney may have prevented this tragedy. Last week a young boy’s life was cut short due to an ineffective warning of danger. While I am glad Disney is putting up new signs, it’s way too little, way too late.

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