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Premises liability issues raised over baby snatched by alligator

Most people are familiar with the recent reported abduction and drowning of a toddler by an alligator at an international resort. Despite the dramatic nature of the headlines here in New Hampshire and around the world, the case is even more important on the issue of the resort's monetary liability to the parents. The area of the law regarding these issues is called premises liability law.

An alligator described by authorities as being seven feet long snatched the 2-year-old boy while he waded in shallow water in a lake at the resort. The boy was with his parents when the alligator took him. His body was found the following day in the water, where he apparently died from drowning.

The tragedy occurred at Walt Disney World in Florida, a state that has over one million alligators in residence. The state has elaborate safety measures and a program to pick up alligators that are a nuisance. Generally, a business owner owes a duty to invitees to inspect the premises for unreasonably dangerous conditions and to warn the business guests of such dangers. In lieu of a warning, the owner can of course fix the situation and eliminate the dangerous condition.

In this case, the resort did not issue any warnings about alligators, but it did post "no swimming" signs at the lake. After the incident, Disney announced that it would post signs warning of alligators. According to the law of premises liability, where a business owner is aware or should reasonably be aware of a dangerous condition on the premises, the failure to post warnings or to remove the danger would lead to legal liability and the payment of damages. These legal principles are generally applicable in New Hampshire as well as all other states.

Source: claimsjournal.com, "Liability Questions Arise After Florida Alligator Attack", Denise Johnson, June 20, 2016

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