In a stunningly tragic event, a 2-year old boy on vacation with his family at a Disney World resort was attacked by an alligator and is now presumed dead.

The toddler was playing in shallow water on a beach at the Grand Floridian Resort just after 9:00 p.m. when an alligator dragged him underwater. The boy’s parents witnessed the horrific incident and the father attempted to get his son back, but was unsuccessful.

Dozens of law enforcement officers have been enlisted to search the lake by boat and air, in search of the alligator that was described to be between 4-7 feet long. One trapper assisting with the efforts has experience working with Disney-area resorts to remove so-called “nuisance alligators” from vulnerable areas.

Reports indicate that signs were allegedly posted in the general area where the incident occurred warning guests not to swim in the lagoon, although the signs did not specify why swimming was prohibited. However, witnesses said that the young boy was only at the edge of the water and was not swimming when he was attacked.

While the grieving will go on for some time, and indefinitely for the parents, at some point the question of who is at fault for this tragedy will be asked. From a legal perspective, there is a definite concern that this premises liability incident was preventable. In Florida, a landowner has a duty to its guests, at the very least, to correct or warn of dangers that the owner knows or should know of by the use of reasonable care, and which the visitor cannot or should not know by the use of reasonable care.

It is quite possible that a premises liability cause of action may exist as a result of this incident. It is not unreasonable to assume that this resort was aware that alligators inhabited the area, given that they apparently had “nuisance alligators” removed from the area before. There were also signs posted, but the signs did not prohibit standing near or in shallow water, apparently the signs only prohibited swimming. Furthermore, according to reports there was also at least one lifeguard on duty stationed in the immediate area.

The victim and his parents were on vacation from Nebraska, meaning it is quite possible that they would have no knowledge of the potential danger posed by alligators, or even that they may exist in that lake. Considering this possibility, should more explicit warnings have been made to protect this toddler, and every other guest who may have been in that area? Also, because the resort may have been aware of the danger posed by these alligators, is there anything more that could have been done to prevent an incident like this? These are important questions that should, and undoubtedly will be asked as more facts come to light.

Like Orlando, the local areas of Fort Lauderdale, Miami and West Palm Beach are densely populated with hotels and resorts. While this type of event is thankfully rare, claims for injuries or wrongful death could arise out of a much more common incident like a slip and fall. Property owners may generally be held liable for any type of incident causing personal injury that arises from certain hazards found on their property.

For more information on this topic or any other, feel free to contact the Schulman Law Group at (954) 349-3300 or at info@www.schulaw.com