Yesterday (9/15/11), Judge Gregory Presnell of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida in Orlando denied a preliminary injunction sought by the family of the deceased SeaWorld trainer, Dawn Bancheau, to prevent video showing the events of Ms. Brancheau's death from being shown publicly at an OSHA hearing looking into potential OSHA violations by SeaWorld scheduled for September 19. Having spent some time today looking at the media reports and the ruling itself, I am disturbed (although not overly surprised) at the extent to which the media has missed the point of Judge Presnell's ruling and has characterized at something it is not.
An Associated Press report, picked up by many news outlets around the country, leads with this sentence:
"A federal judge says there is no legal reason images of a SeaWorld trainer's death should be kept from the public."
To many (maybe most) readers, this suggests that Judge Presnell ruled that the video depicting Ms. Brancheau's death should be public or that he believes that the public interest would be best served if the video were to be released. But that's not what he said in the ruling, and, in fact, there's every reason to believe that despite Judge Presnell's ruling, the graphic video of Ms. Brancheau's death will never be made publicly available at all.
- Erik H. Beard, Esq.
- I am an attorney practicing in Hartford, Connecticut. A particular focus of mine is the legal needs of the amusement and tourism industry. My focus on the amusement industry derives from my pre-law career as an operations manager with Cedar Fair Entertainment Company and Universal Orlando. Having started my career as a ride operator at Cedar Point in 1992, I progressed through the seasonal ranks and ultimately became the Manager of Ride Operations and Park Services at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City. I also worked in Universal's operations department during the construction and development of Islands of Adventure. Today, I am an active member of the New England Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions and the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions. I have been invited to speak at amusement industry meetings and seminars and have worked on a variety of matters relating to this industry.
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Friday, September 16, 2011
Friday, September 9, 2011
We spend a lot of time in this industry talking about the ADA when it comes to guests. The recent death of Sgt. James Hackemer atDarien Lake has kept this issue at the forefront for most of the summer. But one issue we spend a lot less time talking about is the ADA as applied to our employees. Lucky for us, a federal court judge in Michigan has given us the opportunity to think about it now. In Keith v. Oakland County, issued September 1, the Court ruled against a deaf lifeguard in an ADA employment discrimination case finding that his disability precluded him from performing the “essential” duties of a wave-pool lifeguard and that no reasonable accommodation was possible.