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What Happens If A Wild Animal Injures Someone On Your Property?

The tragic events at the Grand Floridian Spa & Resort earlier in the year have once again raised questions for both business and home owners about just how far the responsibilities for safety go when it comes to property ownership. In the case of the Disney corporation, a two-year old child was dragged into a lagoon on hotel grounds by an alligator. This was not a pet on the property that someone had a legal responsibility to keep under control, it was a wild animal.

For Disney and for anyone else, this raises the question, how far do your legal obligations go to protect guests and visitors when it comes to something like this? After all, it’s a wild animal, you don’t even own it, and generally have little control over how it behaves. How much of the responsibility is yours if such an incident occurs?

The Negligence Question

Obviously the actions of a wild animal are unpredictable, and no court or lawyer is going to accuse someone of not exercising enough control over a wild, undomesticated animal. It’s well understood that this is simply not possible.

Where the legal obligation comes in is whether or not property owners have exercised all reasonable precautions to reduce—or entirely prevent—the possibility of an animal attack. In the case of the Grand Floridian hotel, Disney is fortunate that the family has decided not to pursue a court case. However, even now, new barriers are being erected, and Disney is looking at longer term solutions to see how it can prevent wild alligators from entering hotel grounds.

For Home Owners

Things get a bit more difficult for people that are simply home owners. Most of us do not have access to construction or landscaping companies that can build new, huge barriers, or simply change the geography of entire region to suit our security needs. At best, we can put up a fence, perhaps some kind of animal repellant system. In these cases, the important thing is the effort. No one expects perfection, but if it is seen that a property owner is aware of a problem and has actively tried to deal with it, this counts for a lot in court.

For example, bats can be a primary carrier and transmitter of rabies. Obviously if you are in the outdoor area of a shopping mall, or even someone’s backyard, and an isolated bat dropped down, bit someone and transmitted rabies, it’s quite unlikely anything could have been done to prevent such an unpredictable incident.

On the other hand, if bats have been nesting in an attic, and the property owner simply chooses to ignore this, that could easily be construed as an act of negligence in court. In this situation, a clear risk is present that the property owner sees, understands and deliberately chooses to do nothing about. To see a risk, understand its potential hazard and choose to not address it is considered shirking a basic legal responsibility that all property owners are obligated to address.

During his time as a public attorney for the State of Florida, Bernard Walsh developed a passion for defending the legal rights of Florida's citizens. Having seen many people being taken advantage of after being injured and the financial harm that can cause for families he committed himself fully to helping injured clients get justice, by fighting to make greedy insurance companies pay what they owe.

What Happens If A Wild Animal Injures Someone On Your Property?

Goldman Babboni Fernandez
Murphy & Walsh

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