Because of Disney’s corporate thinking, Matt and Melissa Graves lost their son Lane. On June 14, 2016 Lane Graves was killed by an alligator, who snatched him from the shore of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort in Orlando. Probably mistaking the prehistoric creature for a toy or animatronic reptile, Lane walked toward the gator and was taken.
Despite the heroic efforts by his parents, Lane was pulled under water, only to be found by divers the next day. The horror of this loss is magnified by the fact that Matt and Melissa fought the alligator before it submerged with their son.
The dignity displayed by the Graves in refusing to comment on this senseless loss conveys the deep need to grieve their loss and focus on what is important now. But for the rest of us the lesson is clear: Disney needs to learn that they cannot wait until crash after crash at an intersection before putting up a stop sign. Here there was a need for more than just a stop sign.
Disney knew they had a serious alligator problem. That very evening the alligator lurking on the shore was reported to Disney management. Yet nothing was done. Because Disney should have and could have prevented this death, they should be punished. Other businesses like Disney need to see that this kind of corporate conduct will not be tolerated by a civilized society. Punitive damages are the best way to prevent more losses like this.
Punitive damages are awarded to punish to deter others from behaving in a reckless manner. Disney knew that eventually someone would be killed by these alligators if they did nothing. But in the corporate world of Disney, nobody stepped up to the plate.
Disney spends millions to advertise its resorts. How much did they spend to prevent this death? What would it have cost to rope off the shore, change it from a sandy beach with an inviting shoreline?
Everyone with a heart can empathize with the Graves family. When they traveled from Omaha to Orlando they had every reason to believe they would be in for a great vacation. Instead they returned to Nebraska with a casket. Disney is shameful in their initial comments and by pointing to their pathetic “no swimming” signs. They should be publicly apologizing to the Graves family.
But the Big Mouse will not apologize. That’s why a jury will have to make them do it.