OSHA Wins Victory in Seaworld Case Involving Death of Trainer

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A high profile accident at Sea World has wound its way through the Federal appellate court system. As a Florida appeals attorney explains, the latest ruling represents a victory for OSHA.

Recent Court Ruling Regarding Sea World

Sea World has been at the center of a firestorm of publicity after the death of killer whale trainer, Dawn Brancheau, in 2010. Ms. Brancheau’s death was featured in the documentary film, “Blackfish.”  She was apparently dragged under by one of the killer whales she was working with and drowned. The Occupational Safety Hazard Administration (OSHA) has been investigating this workplace death ever since.  The issue at hand, is discovering whether Sea World violated its duties to protect employees by exposing them to recognized hazards. The U.S. Circuit Court for the District Columbia has just recently ruled that they have.

What This May Mean for Sea World

With this latest ruling against Sea World, a Florida appeals attorney explains what this may mean for the park. Since the park was deemed in violation of its duties, OSHA may be able to require Sea World to change the way trainers interact with killer whales. This may include constructing physical barriers between the whales and trainers.  The park has also faced stiff fines as result of this incident.

Sea World’s Position Regarding the Ruling, According to an Appeals Attorney

Sea World officials have long denounced its portrayal in the “Blackfish” film. Additionally, park representatives have maintained that they have already taken steps to further protect trainers during whale interaction.  The park has concerns that with this ruling, OSHA has now expanded its regulatory powers into places it has never gone before, namely, unusual workplace situations where employees are aware of the risks and choose to engage in them.

 

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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