It seems like the Disney theme parks get all the publicity for freak accidents. Where was a boy eaten by an alligator? Disney World! Where did a bird dive bomb a woman walking to a ferry boat? Disney World! Where was a giraffe killed by lightning? Disney’s Animal Kingdom! Perhaps Disney World’s claim to be the “happiest place on earth” inspires Schadenfreude in journalists, but freak accidents happen at other theme parks, too. Does anyone remember that two giraffes were killed by lightning at Lion Country Safari right here in Palm Beach County just this summer? Even Universal has had its share of freak accidents, including some that have led to premises liability lawsuits.
Details of the Dinosaur Egg Case
In July 2013, Yehuda and Kinga Malka visited Universal Orlando with their daughter; the lawsuit does not specify the girl’s age and refers to her only by her initials. The family visited the Dinosaur Egg Scanner attraction in Jurassic Land. The exhibit is a simulation of baby dinosaurs hatching from eggs; visitors can pull a lever to scan the eggs, and an image of a dinosaur embryo appears on a screen. Later on in the exhibit, visitors can get close enough to touch the animatronic dinosaur hatchlings. It was at this part of the attraction that a baby dinosaur’s mechanical arm struck young Ms. Malka on the chin.
The parents filed a premises liability lawsuit against Universal Orlando in 2014, seeking damages for the girl’s injuries. The case went on for several years; at first, Universal Orlando argued that they were not the ones whose negligence caused the accident. Their arguments were the following:
- If the mechanical dinosaur malfunctioned, the negligence belongs to the animatronics manufacturer, not to Universal Orlando.
- The Dinosaur Egg Scanner attraction, like almost all attractions at Orlando theme parks, has clearly displayed warnings about safety.
- The girl’s parents allowed her to get too close to the dinosaur; they did not heed the warnings displayed at the attraction.
In February 2019, however, Universal Orlando agreed to settle the case. They agreed to pay $75,000 into an annuity fund, which the injured girl will be able to access when she becomes an adult. The account will accrue interest, so in 2027, it is estimated that it will be worth $98,000. If the girl turns 18 that year, she would have been about four years old at the time of the accident.
The Legal Issues
Premises liability lawsuits are appropriate when the operators of a place of business fail to fulfill their duty of care to prevent accidents. If the parents had sued the animatronic dinosaur manufacturer, it would have been a product liability lawsuit. If you have been injured by a piece of equipment at a place of business, your lawyer can help you determine whether responsibility belongs to the equipment manufacturer or the place of business.
Reach Out to Us Today for Professional Assistance with Your Case
Premises liability lawsuits often sound like they result from “freak accidents,” but the reason such accidents are rare is that they do not happen when business owners exercise reasonable caution to prevent them. Contact Palm Beach County premises liability attorneys at Smith, Ball & Báez Injury Lawyers for a consultation.