Robert Lawson Jul. 12, 2016, 11:22am


ORLANDO – It is entirely possible the family whose 2-year-old was playing in the shallow waters of a lagoon at Disney World one minute then snatched by an alligator the next could sue the popular theme park. 

Attorneys have different perspectives on the issue, some saying the state laws regarding safety incidents like this sway in favor of the tourism industry of the state while others say the company will face a huge amount of liability. 

The details of the incident are both terrifyingly heartbreaking and legally complicated. 

Matt and Melissa Graves of Elkhorn, Nebraska were visiting Florida's popular theme park with their 2-year-old son, Lane. The toddler was splashing in shallow water near Disney's Grand Floridian Hotel in June when an alligator snatched the boy, dragging him away. The boy's body was eventually recovered by divers searching the water near the area where the incident took place. 

Disney reportedly had signs posted at the lake areas that warned guests not to swim or play in the water, but didn't mention the threat of alligators in the water even though employees said they had been seen on the park's property.

Attorneys in Florida and other parts of the country have weighed in on the issue for several media outlets. 

Those on one side say the park was negligent and because Disney knew about the alligators seen in these areas of the park, it was responsible for post a more specific warning sign about dangerous and predatory alligators as well as the basic sign that it had erected.

Attorneys on the other side of the argument have said the family broke rules at the park and are therefore not going to get very far suing the company because they were not properly engaging the services offered by Disney.

Both sides agree, however, that it's likely Disney will settle any suit. The payout could be as high as $100 million, according to the Independent.

Tammy Sapp, a communications officer for the Division of Hunting and Game Department and Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), said such attacks are a rarity in the state. 

"Alligator attacks are a very rare occurrence in Florida," she told the Florida Record. 

Sapp said the state is engaged in a nuisance program that helps to keep these attacks from happening often. 

"FWC places the highest priority on public safety and administers a Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program (SNAP) to address complaints concerning specific alligators believed to pose a threat to people, pets or property," she said. "SNAP uses contracted nuisance alligator trappers throughout the state to remove alligators believed to pose a threat."

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Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
20 South Meridian Street
Tallahassee, FL 32301

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