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A tourist's fingertips were severed after an accident on Walt Disney World's Pirates of the Caribbean ride Thursday, with many legal questions yet to be answered.
The injured man, a UK resident whose name has not been released, lost the tips of his ring and pinky fingers on his right hand. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the injury occurred after the victim was holding on to the outside of the boat during the ride.
Was the man properly warned, and should Disney cover the damage?
Keep Your Hands Inside the Ride
Although amusement park warnings may seem like white noise after about the 12th time or so on Space Mountain, they serve a very important legal function.
A Disney spokeswoman told the Sentinel that on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, guests are warned to "keep hands and feet inside the ride." The queuing area also contains signs that alert guests to "remain seated with hands, arms, feet and legs inside vehicle." Operators of amusement park rides most likely owe a duty to riders to properly warn them of the safest way to enjoy the ride.
It's currently unclear whether the injured rider heard or disregarded the audio and printed warnings on the Disney ride, but the strength of his future claim against the park may depend on whether a court finds him negligent.
Comparative Fault in Fla.
Disney World, which houses the finger-slicing Pirates of the Caribbean ride, may be subject to Florida's laws on comparative fault. In Florida, and some other states, if a person suing for damages is found to be negligent, each party is only held responsible for the portion of the damage related to his or her own fault.
So if a lawsuit is filed and a jury finds that the rider was 90 percent at fault for his fingertip injuries, while Disney was only 10 percent at fault, then Disney would only be responsible for 10 percent of the damages.
Settling Out of Court
No matter where the distribution of fault lies, the UK tourist's case is unlikely to see the inside of a courtroom.
As this blog has reported, Disneyland -- Disney World's California cousin -- has been sued more than 100 times for injuries from 2007 to 2012, but those cases were almost always settled out of court.
It's unclear whether this severed fingertip case will lead to any litigation at this point, but the Sentinel reports it will likely add to the "significant injuries" Disney voluntarily reports each quarter.
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