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Velociraptor (Film Universe)
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There are three distinct variations of Velociraptor which were cloned by InGen, not counting sexual dimorphism seen within each individual version. However, despite the surface level variations, each sub-species remains relatively similiar in terms of physical attributes. Each species is roughly 6 feet tall…

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Do-You-Think-He-Sue-Us? A Legal Analysis of the Jurassic Park Disaster

The Jurassic universe does not have a fondness for members of the legal community. This comes as somewhat of a shock since most of the InGen antics undoubtedly have far-reaching legal ramifications, and there are likely dozens of attorneys with the sole purpose of keeping the company out of too much trouble. After diving into the intricacies surrounding the legalities surrounding Jurassic Park, it is honestly difficult to decide who had the harder job, the geneticists or the lawyers. As an attorney myself, my goal here is to expound briefly on what liabilities Jurassic Park likely faced upon its implosion and of course, avoid being eaten on a toilet.

For this article, we are going to have to make a few big assumptions. First assumption: the laws of the United States apply. Most smart companies with assets in foreign countries will establish a subsidiary in the country where those assets reside. The benefit of the subsidiary means that any lawsuits brought against the company can utilize the foreign country’s laws and court system. Some companies elect to do this if they see that the foreign country’s laws are more favorable in a particular area where they are at risk of a lawsuit. Even though InGen was headquartered in California, Jurassic Park was built on Costa Rican soil. I cannot find any reference to an InGen subsidiary in Costa Rica in any of the canon, and since classifying InGen as a “smart” company gives me pause, it is entirely possible that lawsuits filed by American paleontologists, chaoticians, and tourists back in the United States could follow U.S. laws.

But assuming the United States law governs, what kind of disastrous bill is InGen in store for? Well, we know they were on the verge of Chapter 11 bankruptcy following the events of Jurassic Park, but what put them there? In California, where Jurassic Park was originally supposed to be built, the laws surrounding actual zoos are no laughing matter. Regulations control nearly every aspect of the park, from the specifications of building enclosures, right down to posting correct signage. In the eyes of the law, housing and maintaining a wild animal is virtually the same as working with uranium or using explosives. It is known as an “ultrahazardous activity.” Conducting these types of activities in California comes with a harsh legal consequence – the party conducting the activity is strictly liable for any injuries these animals cause to park patrons. In other words, even the most careful of zoos are likely to be held accountable for visitors wounded by the animals. Basically, even the countless miles of Jurassic Park electrified fences would not be able to hold back the costly verdict from an injured park-goer.

While the concept of a Jurassic Park may be fiction, the situation of an escaped wild animal in a zoo is certainly not. In 2011, a 300-pound gorilla named “Little Joe” escaped from his enclosure at the New England Zoo. After the gorilla attacked a two-year-old child, a jury found that the zoo failed to use reasonable care to keep the gorilla confined and awarded the child’s family a verdict of $175,000. Eerily enough, the most similar incident to Jurassic Park took place in the same state where the original park was supposed to be built. In 2007, a Siberian tiger jumped out of its enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo and ran amok inside the park. Before being subdued, the tiger killed one boy and injured two brothers. The surviving brothers sued the zoo and settled for a costly $900,000 sum before trial.

With the deaths seen in Jurassic Park, it would not be unthinkable for a jury to award family members of the victims an even greater amount. Many factors are taken into consideration for a wrongful death suit. These can include the victim’s pre-death pain and suffering, funeral and burial cost, loss of income, loss of love and companionship, and value of services the victim could have provided, among many others. These concepts are purposefully abstract and let a jury determine an appropriate amount based on their own thoughts and experiences. A jury presented with a wrongful death case involving a mauling from an escaped velociraptor could run wild with these figures. While it is hard to speculate on an exact number, think upwards of a potential $1.5 million per victim if there’s no cap on the amount of damages a victim can receive.

Just as a side note, as expensive as the Jurassic Park incident would have been, it would not hold a candle to the expense of battling the lawsuits from the injured park-goers of Jurassic World. There is no doubt that the numerous attendees would have brought a class action lawsuit, and California law nearly assures that such an action has to be brought in California. If the Jurassic Park incident nearly put InGen into bankruptcy, the Jurassic World incident should have obliterated the Masrani Company. In the words of Claire Dearing, “We’d never reopen.”

This brings up assumption number two: InGen did not make the visiting dinosaur experts sign any waivers of liability. While such a waiver would not likely bar the injured guests from recovering money for their damages, it could put a cap on how much they could recover. In addition, it might force the victim to give up their right to a jury trial and mandate they attend arbitration instead. Arbitration is an alternate form of dispute resolution that divorces the issue from the government court systems. Rules can be more relaxed, and this can work in favor of the company in some cases. Most theme parks today include language on the back of their ticket stubs that stipulate arbitration as a mandatory requirement of enjoying the park. Next time you head to a big theme park, or even a sports event, check your ticket for what you are actually signing up for.

What are your thoughts on InGen being held accountable for their actions? Are costly settlements enough or should InGen execs just all be subjected to the same fate as Gennaro? Sound off with your opinions in the comments below.

Source: Gomez Law Firm, ABC News San Francisco, Boston Herald

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46 thoughts on “Do-You-Think-He-Sue-Us? A Legal Analysis of the Jurassic Park Disaster

  1. Damages paid to victims would never be sufficient to bankrupt InGen. A few million dollars would be nothing compared to how much the company had already spent to build the park. The near bankruptcy likely refers to the fact that Jurassic Park was a really costly endeavour which was ultimately abandonded and private investors would sue the company, because Chrighton IIRC describes how InGen created the park with funds provided by third party investors (also the reason Genaro was there in the first place). After the JP fiasco, they would come after InGen and seek damages, since the missteps that lead to the incident were InGene’s fault and they were liable.

  2. Yes, monetary compensation for the families of the victims is very much sound. In real life terms the scientists should also be jailed for making creatures that are not only more lethal than modern day animals but also struggling in hostile conditions that weren’t suited for them. Lab made or not, these are living beings and their treatment could be considered animal abuse.

    1. Dialysis… Do you know what happened when this was first being developed? Progress is never easy and always comes at a cost. Deal with it or enjoy never having nice things.

  3. You’re a lawyer? I’mma stop you right there. The problem is your kind always gets involved. Progress. True progress, bends the rules, breaks them even. It ignores your moral sentiments and strives for something new and amazing. Your kind on the other hand always gets in the way and halts that progress. Why can’t we grow new Human organs like Carrots yet? Because your kind thinks using stem cells is a bad idea. And that’s just one example.

      1. Whoa… I’m pretty sure I’ve heard that kind of self-righteous “screw the rules The Cause Uber Alles” attitude before… I think it was a particular favorite of a fellow with a funny mustache and some of his close associates back in the 1930s and 40s…

          1. Screw Godwin… I’m a History major, and I know all about his politics and how his “law” was designed to suppress the voices of us who paid attention in History class.

      1. As unorthodox as my posts may be, at least I attempt to add something meaningful and relevant. I don’t recall ever telling anyone to shut up though.

  4. Thousands of people die from abuse, starvation and disease in Third World countries every day and nobody panics… But if a Velociraptor escapes and mauls one, little old zoo employee? Well then everyone loses their minds!

    I’d trade a hundred little old zoo keepers for the chance to see one Velociraptor any day.

    1. Um. That’s a little dramatic. I’d love to see a Velociraptor, but not at the cost of a hundred innocent lives. I do agree that progress needs to sometimes break rules. I’ve got nothing against the author of this article, but lawyers can sometimes be pains in the backside. I’ll give you that.

      1. Consider that in the World Wars of yesterday, people threw their children into a hail of bullets in the name of misguided honour and patriotism… At least I’d get a Velociraptor out of it…

        1. Don’t try to change the subject through a straw man fallacy, are you honestly saying that you would effectively let the Zoo employee, that is your kid, be mauled (at best) be killed (at worst) by the Velociraptor, all for the sake of wanting to see it live once again?

          And would you honestly not want to press charges against the Zoo or even call for an investigation to find out what happened?

      1. Eh, the movie was still disappointing, one of those boats would have been detonated for sure. No human is really as noble as the film portrayed them to be.

  5. That’s very interesting topic you brought up Mr. Anderson.

    JW:FK is around the corner and it seems Claire, as the first in the command after the death of Masrani, took no legal responsibility for JW park failour. Realistically, she should have been sentenced due to manslaughter that resulted from failour to fullfil her obligations as the main park manager. Someone could say she couldn’t do better considering circumstances, but she was hired for that exact thing and safety of vistors were her responsiblity. Hoskins would have had his own trial if he had been alive as well. What’s more investigators could question JW’s safety protocols owing to the fact there weren’t enough safe shelters for visitors nearby (I’m looking at panic scene in the main street).

    I’m pretty sure in normal world authoroties would have found out about I-rex anyway, because such catastrophe that took place on Isla Nublar is too big to not have someone looking under every stone in the park. Investigators would only have to check what caused the crash of Masrani helicopter to see that something really big broke into aviary. From one clue to another and secret would have been revealed.

    I really hope Claire will admit her responsiblity of park failour and creation of I-rex (I-rex was ultimately her idea to boost revenue.) in Fallen Kingdom to Owen at least.

    1. How is she responsible? Claire was the one who called for the evacuation to take place and even taking part in an active role, traveling out into a dangerous area of the park, where the Indominus was roaming, in order to rescue visitors who were left behind. If anything Simon Masrani, Vic Hoskins, Dr. Wu and even Owen Grady to an extent are the ones responsible for the deaths that occurred in Jurassic World:

      Owen Grady and two other staff members walked into the Paddock 11 before receiving confirmation from the control room about the Indominus’ location. (However it could be argued that with a staff member already being in the paddock for sometime before Owen and the paddock supervisor, it created a false sense of security for said staff members, but I digress).

      Simon Masrani stopped the control room from putting out a park-wide alert and potential evacuation for the visitors, and sent ACU out on a mission involving an incredibly dangerous large carnivore, which has already killed two people and caused extensive damage, with non-leathal weapons. Masrani also lost his eye on the ball regarding Dr. Wu, he effectively left the geneticist to do whatever he wanted with the hybrid’s creation and didn’t inquire what was part of the genetic makeup until after the failed ACU mission. Finally, he was the one who authorised Dr. Wu to create the Indominus in the first place, “bigger, scarier, cooler were the words he used in his memo”.

      Vic Hoskins hijacked both an upcoming park attraction and a research project for military purposes. The park attraction was effectively turned into a biological weapon and the research project was hastily converted into a military field test, even though the Velociraptors had only once successfully completed their training exercise, and even then they were shown to be very dangerous, attacking their alpha the moment his back was turned.

      Dr. Wu refused to reveal to park management and senior members of Masrani Global the full extent of the Indominus’ genetic makeup. This neglection to tell all these people about what DNA was used to create the hybrid, meant that park staff was not prepared for the hybrid’s abilities to hide her thermal signature, camouflage among the island’s foliage, incredibly tough hide (rendering most of ACU’s weapons useless) and high level of intelligence.

      1. She would have taken legal responsiblity for manslaughter regardless what you think. The matter is what punishment would have been. Her job is to control everything that happens in the park and make sure the park is safe. If someone has such responsible occupation and sth happened that cause death of visitiors, he will have a trial. With JW park being that big, authoroties would check every safety protocol, safety of pens and their design, they would check every computer that kept recording data at that day and I’m pretty sure they would find enough evidance to put her in front the court.

        I don’t deny other points you’ve brought up, because on that day everything that should have stopped Irex from escaping failed due to not fallowing safety protocols or terrible design of the pen ( I mean who the hell would design a pen that doesn’t have doubled doors? So if dinosaur broke through on door, it would be still caged (sth like airlock))

        Hellegennes, brought up other valid points below.

        PS: Speaking of Dr. Wu, no way he could refuse Masrani revealing from what I-rex was made. In the end Dr. Wu worked for Masrani and as an employee he couldn’t have such privliege. But that matter is “what if” scenario.

  6. Prior to the incident at the original park, dinosaurs were not known to exist, so can they still need governed by the same laws that govern the housing and maintenance of extant wild animals?

    1. That’s an intriguing question! My gut reaction would be that the same type of laws would apply. I think housing dinosaurs would still qualify under the “Ultrahazardous Activity” classification I talked about. The applicable California law doesn’t necessarily list out all situations that would qualify as ultrahazardous, but it does say that the final determination is in the hands of the courts. The law gives judges some factors to consider when making a ruling on that, such as the existence of a high degree of risk of some harm to a person, likelihood that the harm that results from it will be great, the extent to which the activity is not a matter of common usage, and the extent to which its value to the community is outweighed by its dangerous attributes.

      While building a Jurassic Park probably has some value to the community, the risk of danger is extraordinarily high. I think a judge in real life would likely rule that keeping ol’ Rexy in a theme park was pretty ultrahazardous! Great question!

  7. In real life, all Jurassic World protagonists would be behind bars. They all acted negligently, which led to the Indominus Rex escaping. By entering the paddock without having the location of the dinosaur confirmed by the control centre, they allowed the dinosaur to escape. It’s utterly nonsenical that Claire had to drive to control centre to call them on the way to confirm the dinosaur’s location. What, didn’t they have landlines? Would it even be safe to leave the room with a dinosaur roaming about?

    Masrani would also be screwed. This theme park has less security measures than a normal zoo. Where are the fences separating the enclosures from the visitor centre and hotels? Where are the moats? Where are the underground safe facilities for visitors? Why did they assemble them all outside? They would be far safer locked in their rooms, although, as I just said, the far safer choices would be an underground panic facility or a sea platform just outside the island, where they could transport everyone in short time. WTF option is to have them all gather outside, in the main street?

    And don’t even get me started on the gyrospheres.

    This park (the JW one) screams lawsuit at Chicxulub level decibels.

  8. Taken from the deleted boardroom scene which would have been towards the beginning of The Lost World:

    “LUDLOW
    Wrongful death settlements, partial list: family of Donald Gennaro, 36.5 million dollars; family of Robert Muldoon, 12.6 million. Damaged or destroyed equipment, 17.3 million. Demolition, de-construction, and disposal of Isla Nublar facilities, organic and inorganic, one hundred and twenty-six million dollars. The list goes on, gentlemen — research funding, media payoffs. Silence is expensive.”

    Interestingly, the scene as shot includes John Arnold’s wrongful death settlement with an amount of 23 million: https://youtu.be/l_591oPc2nA

    1. Good memory catching that deleted scene! I thought about it when I was writing up the article, but I decided to leave it out of my rationale because of its deleted nature. But here’s my two cents on it anyway.

      The settlement figures Ludlow gives are potentially realistic. My own experience leaves me to believe that they are perhaps a little inflated, but who knows what a real jury would do with a dinosaur attack. Honestly, the figure I would be most interested in seeing would be Jophrey’s. As an employee, there would be some tricky loopholes to jump through that might lessen his award. But I guess we’ll never know!

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