SeaWorld Attacks Family’s Emotional Trauma Claims

October 13th, 2010 by Staff

ORLANDO, Fla. — Lawyers representing SeaWorld Orlando slam a negligence lawsuit from a New Hampshire family who witnessed the death of killer whale trainer Dawn Brancheau.
Suzanne and Todd Connell are suing SeaWorld for negligence and damages from emotional trauma.
The New Hampshire family members said they were only 30 feet from Brancheau when the incident happened. The family shot home video just moments before the trainer’s death.
The Orlando attorneys representing SeaWorld have filed a motion asking that the Connells’ suit be dismissed, saying that it does not meet the requirements for such a lawsuit.
The 26-page lawsuit “reads more like a press release than a legal pleading,” the motion reads.
The SeaWorld lawyers argue that permitting the case to move forward would “open the courtroom doors for every other opportunistic claimant who witnesses an accident.”
The lawsuit claims the Connells’ son “looked on in horror” as “Tilikum pulled Dawn Brancheau underwater.”
The lawsuit said their son “saw the look of horror and desperation on Dawn’s face when she was swimming for her life” and “cried so profoundly that his face turned red, then a shade of blue.”
In the Connells’ lawsuit, they claim Brancheau made a “deep, positive impression” during her performance at the Dine With Shamu event they were attending. The lawsuit claims that emotional connection created even more stress after witnessing the trainer’s death.
SeaWorld’s motion to dismiss said the Connells’ lawsuit could mean a flood of similar cases.
“If a cause for action existed here, it would exist for thousands of football fans who witness the death of a player due to a helmet alleged to be negligently designed,” the motion said. “It would exist for thousands of fans who see a singer collapse at a concert due to alleged negligent overmedication.”

SeaWorld lawyers argue in the motion that those cases might even have more merit.
“In fact, these types of events are even more apt to give rise to a close personal relationship since fans often avidly follow such athletes and performers for years as opposed to a one-time encounter during a lunch show,” the lawyers said.
The judge in the case has now issued an order asking for the Connells’ lawyers to issue a written response to the motion to dismiss.

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