The Atlanta Injury News Blog

SeaWorld on the Hook for Alpharetta Girl's Dolphin Bite?

Amusement parks aren't all fun and games. You'd be surprised how often guests are seriously injured.

Just last month, for instance, 8-year-old Jillian Thomas of Alpharetta was injured when a dolphin bit her hand at SeaWorld Orlando, CNN reports.

The amusement park insists it gave its guests adequate warning about the dangers of feeding the dolphins. But Jillian's parents claim otherwise.

Jillian was feeding the dolphins at a park attraction when she "accidentally" held up a paper tray holding fish, according to CNN. A dolphin lunged for the tray, biting down on Jillian's hand in the process.

Jillian reportedly suffered three bloody puncture wounds to her hand. Her parents claim SeaWorld employees were slow to act. "They did not tell us to look out for any signs of infection," Jillian's mother Amy Thomas told CNN. "We had to ask for Band-Aids."

The Thomases haven't yet decided whether to file a personal injury suit against SeaWorld on their daughter's behalf. In general, venues that are open to the public have a duty to protect guests from known hazards on the premises. The Thomases may have a viable negligence claim against SeaWorld for breaching that duty.

However, SeaWorld thinks otherwise. The company says it was aware that picking up the dolphins' food trays could lead to injury, and that it warned guests to keep the trays down. The Thomases say that they were aware of the warning, but weren't told why it was important.

SeaWorld's warning could hurt any negligence claim the family decides to bring. Many states, including Georgia, apply the concept of contributory negligence to personal injury suits.

Under Georgia's contributory negligence law, for example, a claimant may be barred from recovery if her negligence outweighs the defendant's. If a suit is filed, SeaWorld would likely argue that Jillian and her family were negligent in failing to obey the park's rules, and that their negligence was the ultimate cause of the injury.

Jillian's parents say their daughter has been praying for the dolphin every night, hoping that the paper plate it swallowed doesn't make the animal ill.

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