SeaWorld keeps making the news for the wrong reasons these days. Neither of the two lawsuits recently filed against SeaWorld Orlando are from the family of the dead killer whale trainer, but both could have a big impact on the company that is struggling to create an identity for itself separate from its former beer company owners.
The first lawsuit is an emotional distress claim from the tourist family that witnessed the tragic accident. I would agree that SeaWorld has some obligation to pay for mental health and counseling needs that results from an incident like this, but to go beyond that opens every company to huge liability from witnesses to accidents.
Let’s say, and we hope this never happens, that a SeaWorld performer suffers a seizure and drowns in the middle of a dolphin show. Is the entire audience now eligible to sue for emotional distress? What if a stunt driver at Disney’s Light Motors Action dies on stage in an accident? That could be 5,000 separate lawsuits.
The second lawsuit is for defamation from the fired Safety Officer who claims to be a whistleblower against SeaWorld’s alleged suppression of shoddy safety practices that led to the trainers death. This one, if true, does not put SeaWorld in a good light at all.