SeaWorld lawsuit: seeing orca attack traumatized our kid

by Walter Olson on August 27, 2010

“A New Hampshire family who witnessed the Feb. 24 death of a killer-whale trainer at SeaWorld Orlando has sued the company in state court in Orlando, claiming their child was traumatized by the event.” [Orlando Sentinel]

{ 9 comments }

1 Bob Lipton 08.27.10 at 6:23 am

Shouldn’t they be suing the dead guy? If he hadn’t been attacked, their kid wouldn’t have been traumatized.

Bob

2 nevins 08.27.10 at 6:53 am

People go to car races to see the wrecks. They go to the KILLER whale show to see…. I’d say they are the first audience that got their money’s worth; all others have a claim however.

3 Richard Nieporent 08.27.10 at 7:23 am

Did they sue for $38 quadrillion dollars?

4 STEVE MANSFIELD 08.27.10 at 8:30 am

The traditional rule is that witnesses unrelated to the victim of a tragic event such as this or a car wreck cannot sue for damages for emotional distress as there is a lack of foreseeability. This should be thrown out and costs awarded to the defendant. If such nonsense like this is allowed then untold millions who watched the events of 9/11/01 could sue.

5 Dennis 08.27.10 at 10:00 am

They should have their children seized by the State, and put up for adoption, because they are unfit parents. They deliberately put their children in harms way by exposing them to wild animals that they knew could cause harm.

6 VMS 08.27.10 at 10:06 am

@ 4 is correct. In FL one has to be related to the victim to win on negligent infliction of emotional distress, plus there are additonal elements that are missing from the instant suit. This lawsuit is frivolous, and a sure loser.

Zell v. Meek, 665 So.2d 1048 (Fla. 1995) sets forth the elements of this cause of action in Florida:
The plaintiff must suffer a physical injury; and the plaintiff’s physical injury must be caused by the psychological trauma; and the plaintiff must be involved in some way in the event causing the negligent injury to another; and the plaintiff must have a close personal
relationship to the directly injured person.

See also Champion v. Gray, 478 So.2d 17 (Fla.1985)

In many law schools, this cause of action is presented by the question: “Should anyone who witnessed Ruby kill Oswald on national television be able to sue Ruby?”

Many states such as New York also have a “zone of danger” requirement. For example, a mother learning from the police that her child was run over while crossing the street, who manifests physical symptoms from her emotional distress cannot recover. But the same mother who was crossing the street with her child, and sees the child get hit by the car, although she herself was not touched, can recover.

7 Wfjag 08.28.10 at 9:34 am

Bob – It was a dead girl. So, it would be ungentlemanly to sue her. I’m sure that was foremost in the minds of plaintiffs’ counsel.

8 Aaron Worthing 08.30.10 at 1:44 pm

i think this argues pretty effectively against the idea of a cause of action for negligent infliction of emotional distress.

more than likely it is the FL state legislature that is to blame for this even being a cause of action. certainly they can put a stop to it, in any case.

i don’t agree with the insinuation that people go there to see the killer whales kill someone, though.

9 Mark Biggar 08.31.10 at 6:17 pm

No, people don’t go to that show to see (or even hoping to see) someone killed, but like all wild animal shows, part of the attraction of this type of show is that they are dangerous animals and something like this is always possible, if unlikely. You are going to the show to see people interact with dangerous animals. So there is some aspect of “Assumed Risk” of seeing something upsetting for these type of shows, just like the assumed risk of being hit by a ball when attending a ball game.

BTW, did anyone try to sue Sigfried and Roy over the tiger incident?

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