Family of boy who saw Brancheau drowning at SeaWorld Orlando sues park

Posted Thursday, August 26, 2010 12:38 PM | Contributed by Jeff

The family of a New Hampshire 10-year-old who watched a killer whale batter and drown a trainer at SeaWorld has filed suit against the amusement park, the Daily News has learned. Todd and Suzanne Connell, who took their son Bobby to Florida in February to celebrate his 10th birthday, say the boy looked straight into Dawn Brancheau's eyes as the doomed trainer briefly freed herself from the orca's jaws.

Read more from The New York Daily News.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 4:36 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

GoBucks89 said:
How is that different from someone suing to collect damages from the person who negligently ran a red light and smashed into another car causing damages to the car and other driver?

Because SeaWorld didn't run a red light?

Do I win?


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Thursday, August 26, 2010 4:40 PM

No you don't because they are claiming that the negligence of SeaWorld caused the son's injury. Just like the other driver was negligent in running the red light. In both cases, you need to prove negligence, that the negligence caused the injuries and what the damages are for those injuries.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 4:48 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Well, anyone can claim that anyone was negligent about anything. Doesn't make it right.

I was at my neighbors house shooting the breeze and he was trimming his hedges. He lost focus for a minute and cut his hand off. I'm suing him for negligence because I now have nightmares about the incident.

Dumbass should've known better than to accidentally cut his hand off in his own yard in front of me. :)


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Thursday, August 26, 2010 4:54 PM
sws's avatar

You'd be better off suing the maker of the hedge trimmer for lack of safety features that led to your emotional distress. That company probably has more money than your dumbass, handless neighbor.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 4:57 PM
Tekwardo's avatar

Yeah, that's what I was getting at in my post. You have the right to sue for negligence if you feel the other party was.

I'm not inclined to think that Sea World was actually negligent in this case, though. It's a terrible thing that happened, it really is. Sea World obviously knows the risk in employing such large animals, and the trainers do as well. I'm sure Sea World also knows the risk in employing animals in a show for other people that could be subjected to a terrible accident like this.

After reading up on this particular case a bit more, I think the family is in it more for the money. The fact that they lent out their video (Likely for cash) to media outlets, yet now they're suing because of what their son saw (and they subjected other people to the same thing by way of video) makes me less on their side.


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Thursday, August 26, 2010 4:59 PM
Jeff's avatar

RatherGoodBear said:
I'm trying to find the webpage where it says that people have the right never to experience anything bad in their lives unless they are monetarily compensated for it.

Don't you think that's grossly oversimplifying the situation? Even a little? How many people have you seen drowned by a whale? Do you have a child who saw it? I suspect the answer is no to both of those questions, and while you're entitled to your opinion, you're also completely unqualified to write off the plaintiffs as ambulance chasing schmucks looking for a quick dollar.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 5:00 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Tekwardo said:
I'm not inclined to think that Sea World was actually negligent in this case, though.

All joking aside, isn't that really what we're discussing here?

Anyone can claim negligence for any reason. It's up to the courts to decide. We all get that.

We're discussing our takes on this particular claim.


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Thursday, August 26, 2010 5:02 PM

If your friend was cited by OHSA for serious and willful safety violations, I suspect you would have a better case against him.

As for suing the maker of the hedge trimmer, see my first post: sue solvent parties. :)

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 5:07 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Well, he wouldn't be regulated by OSHA, but that doesn't make my pain and suffering any less than if he were.

It just makes it less "official" :)

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Thursday, August 26, 2010 5:08 PM
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Thursday, August 26, 2010 5:14 PM

You can look at different people who have gone through similar experiences as a result of the actions of another. Some people bring suit; others don't. Some people may not sue with damages that are more severe than someone who does sue. What makes it right or wrong to bring a suit in those cases or not to bring one in others?

I don't know enough about this case to know if SeaWorld was negligent. Would need to review the OSHA report, SeaWorld's responses to the inquiry, views of experts, etc. My guess is that few folks here have enough info either other than to form an airchair view.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 5:19 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

GoBucks89 said:
My guess is that few folks here have enough info either other than to form an airchair view.

Again, in an 'official' sense, true dat.

Unfortunately, 'official sense' and 'common sense' aren't the same thing.


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Thursday, August 26, 2010 5:29 PM
Jeff's avatar

Knowledge or not, I would expect people to have a little more basic human compassion before rushing to judgment.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 5:31 PM

Not sure I understand the distinction being made with respect to "official sense" and "common sense" in this case. To me, there is a big difference between a situation (1) where the animal, being a living thing with a mind of its own, acted unpredictablly and there was nothing that SeaWorld did or could have done that would have prevented it and (2) where SeaWorld was negligent in some fashion and as a result of that negligence, the tragedy occurred which tragedy would not have occurred but for that negligence. And it seems to me that you need to have the official/actual story before you can make that determination rather than just airchairing it on a coaster site.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 5:35 PM
Kick The Sky's avatar

There's a bumper sticker saying, "Crap Happens" (insert the proper word where crap is). The thing is, I think American's have lost sight of what that really means. Back in my grandparent's generation bad things happening was just a way of life and it was expected. If someone was killed in an accident and there wasn't overly gross negligence, they didn't sue and it was just one of the bad things that happen in life.

Now a days we live in a world where everyone expects a perfect life. We expect a perfect life for our children. We assume that nothing bad is ever going to happen. When something bad does happen, however, we immediately turn and look at who can we blame first. Someone breaks their arm falling on my sidewalk? Sue. Someone falls out of a tree at a park and gets hurt? Sue the city. Someone views something horrific? Sue. Should everyone with a kid in New York on 9/11 sue the airlines because their planes were crashed into a building and it was one of the most horrific days in our lives? Should families sue the networks because they were broadcasting people jumping from the twin towers to their death to escape the flames?

A lot of people needed therapy after 9/11. It was a horrific day and it is very understandable that people are going to need help after that. Mental damage is indeed just as bad as physical damage in many cases. I have no doubt that the boy needs counseling after what he saw at Sea World. The thing is, crap happens. You can't control the world and what people are going to witness.


Certain victory.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 5:38 PM
Jeff's avatar

You can give examples until you're blue in the face, but it doesn't get you any closer to being in this kid's shoes, or a valid generalization about a sue-happy society.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 5:41 PM

I had every belief when it happened that everyone who saw the inccident would be suing and I honestly think in this case they should be able to. Only question is, Whats trauma worth? Ten grand? One Hundred Grand?

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 5:42 PM

I'm on the fence here too. If it were my kids that saw that (and it could have been...we've seen the show) I don't know how I would feel. But, I do know I would want my kid to get help and that I might feel that I should be compensated for the help I had to seek.

Of course, I've been to alligator wrestling here in South Florida and I've never seen a gator bite a gator handler. That said, I've never met a gator handler who had all his fingers. So, I guess you can make a case that I should have a reasonable expectation that I might witness something unpleasant.

Geez, it is crazy. I took my kids to see the Monster Truck show last weekend. If one of those trucks crashed and killed the driver, would all 20,000 of us in the audience have a cause of action against arena management or the Monster Truck Association? How about at a football game when a player is hurt or killed?

Is it all too murky for me.

Last edited by wahoo skipper, Thursday, August 26, 2010 5:43 PM
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Thursday, August 26, 2010 5:49 PM

Without joining one side or the other in this debate, I can't help but observe that if somebody had invented peril-sensitive sunglasses already, none of this would be an issue... ;)


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Thursday, August 26, 2010 6:34 PM
Jeff's avatar

Well towels clearly didn't help in this case.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 7:03 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

GoBucks89 said:
And it seems to me that you need to have the official/actual story before you can make that determination rather than just airchairing it on a coaster site.

I suppose. Not sure why it has to be complicated.

I'm not sure you can sell me on any scenario where witnessing another person's (or company's) horrible tragedy play out is grounds for me being able to, in turn, sue them for happening to witness that tragedy go down.

I just can't fathom any scenario where something SeaWorld did caused that boy to witness the accident the park endured.

(Now whether they were at fault for the accident in the first place is an entirely different story and it's trying to connect that fault to this that loses me)


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