Last week Hurricane Irma officially became the strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history! Floridian’s watched for two weeks while forecasters predicted Irma’s path. But even after it became pretty clear that Irma set its sights on the state, some Floridian’s weren’t convinced the storm would be as bad as it was predicted to be.
That is until Disney announced a two-day closure for all its Orlando parks!
That’s right. Floridian’s know a monster storm is coming when Disney closes the park. Disney has only closed its doors six times since the park opened in 1971. In fact, Disney has never closed its doors for two consecutive days before Hurricane Irma.
Disney doesn’t want to be liable for guest or employee injuries.
Closing the parks was the right move from a legal standpoint. Disney doesn’t want to be responsible if guests or employees are injured while enjoying the park during a hurricane.
Disney has a duty to provide its guests a hazard free environment. Similarly, Disney has a duty to provide its employees a safe work environment. If Disney stayed open during Irma, the entertainment giant would have opened itself up to all kinds of negligence claims.
If an employee were injured while working through a hurricane, she could sue Disney. The same is true for guests.
Florida negligence law is plaintiff friendly.
If you are injured in Florida, you can recover damages even if you are 99% responsible for your injuries. That’s because Florida is a pure comparative fault state. In pure comparative fault states, the jury awards damages and then assigns blame proportionately. So, for example, if I broke my ankle while I was doing gymnastics down Main Street at the Magic Kingdom during a hurricane a jury might say that I am 70% responsible for my injury. The judge will reduce the amount of damages awarded by the jury by 70%.
This doesn’t sound like such a bad deal for Disney, but if you multiply even reduced damages awards by tens, hundreds, or even thousands of plaintiff’s you could be talking about some pretty big figures.