The recent and tragic death of Dawn Brancheau, an experienced orca trainer, at SeaWorld’s Orlando park, has spawned much (and often sensational) news coverage. The thrust of much of the press coverage has been on the general questions of whether orcas, a/k/a killer whales, should ever be held in captivity or allowed to interact for daily shows with humans. The second, and for a legal blawg, the more interesting aspect of the tragedy is whether Tilikum, the whale implicated in the recent attack, has “violent propensities” — beyond that which should be expected from a “typical” orca. Indeed, it has now come to light that this is the third human fatality that Tilikum has caused (in whole or in part) over the last 20 years. Although, for the moment, Brancheau’s family has not expressed any interest in commencing a lawsuit against SeaWorld, given Tilikum’s apparent “violent propensities” a lawsuit of some kind by someone seems inevitable — especially if Tilikum (whom SeaWorld has annouced it will not put down) attacks again.
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