There are certain truths about being a lawyer, and one that is when something tragic happens, an attorney’s first thought after “Oh, how terrible” is “What will the lawsuits be?” followed by “What will the immediate damage control steps be?”Those questions arose earlier this week when a SeaWorld Orlando killer whale killed its trainer, 40-year-old Dawn Brancheau.
When a dog attacks, putting the dog down seems to be the usual (and not surprising) step. But what if it’s a whale that can be kept in the water, away from humans, which, after all, is its natural habitat anyway?
SeaWorld will keep the animal alive, a park official told the Los Angeles Times. Florida law allows owner to make the decision whether to euthanize an animal after a fatal attack, the paper said.
As for litigation that might potentially be brought by Brancheau’s family, Above The Law noted yesterday that it does not appear they wish to sue.
But should they decide to, we imagine it would be an uphill climb, save for proof of gross negligence by the park in the handling of the whale. There seems like little better use for the legal standard of “assumption of the risk” than working with a whale that was already responsible for two deaths.
A comment from a SeaWorld visitor echoed this idea: “It’s scary,” SeaWorld Orlando visitor April D’Agostino told the LAT. “But they know what’s at risk when they get in the tank with those whales.”
We looked into precedent for theme park whale attacks, but only came up with a lawsuit that proved that there is no limit to the strange lawsuits out there. The introduction to a 2007 SDNY opinion: Jonathan E. Smith holds the copyright to a video of orcas attacking him during a performance at Sea World (the “Video”). Smith has filed suit against NBC Universal, MG Perin Inc., Universal Television Networks (“UTN”), and 20 unknown persons for unlicensed reproduction of the Video and for various violations of state law.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.