Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Flying gator presents risk management problem

A 24-year old driver at 1:30 a.m. pulls up to a Wendy's drive-thru in Jupiter, FL , orders a drink, and then reaches into his vehicle when the attendant is not looking and tosses an alligator through the window.

The guy's Mom later notes that her son  really likes Steve Irwin, and that he enjoys pranks, and he "does stuff like this."  He acquired  the gator from the side of the road before pitching it through the drive-through as a prank on someone he knew inside the restaurant. 

A police officer responded to the scene and released the 3 1/2 foot gator to a nearby canal. The story notes  that the gator was not fully grown.    A judge ordered him to stay away from Wendy's and play with his mom's dog instead and maybe see a mental health doctor.

He was charged with a variety of offenses including unlawful transporting or possession of an alligator and assault with a "deadly" weapon, among others.  The story goes on to report that he was wearing his hat backwards.

This example, of course,  shows why Florida  fully embraces Dave Barry's  phrase "and-I'm-not-making-this-up"    A few years ago a reptile store owner in Broward County made national headlines for swinging a bearded dragon lizard and hit his employees with it. One can't forget that old Florida tradition of  letting young boys and girls swim with captive alligators.  What could go wrong?

This  prank  presents an interesting problem in the world of risk management that employees bring with them all of their "associational" risks of spouses, boyfriends, and whatever. 
 Is the problem of gators flying through the drive-through window a risk that has been property addressed in the employee safety manual?   "We have a gator here.  What page is that on, again?"
Considering the number of gators present in southern Florida this clearly demonstrates the need for a "no gators inside' rule just like TSA warns people not to bring their explosives and excessive amounts of maple syrup onto planes.  This rule needs to keep in mind any ADA obligations about registered reptiles as service and emotional support animals. 

 In most states, this event would cause an uproar that everyone inside the restaurant would file PTSD comp claims but Florida has taken care of this in its comp code, 440.093,  to bar recovery   for "mental" only claims. If someone, however,  broke a toe nail running away that might be an entirely different comp story because that is a physical injury that might produce obvious emotional scars, especially if one is fond of flip flops. 

The comp exclusion does not say anything, however, to stop the right of the gator itself from suing.  If Naruto  the Macaque can tie up federal courts whether he has intellectual property rights for his own selfie, it seems  the gator expressing its own right of personhood  should have a remedy for such a wrong.   PETA should be all over this --  maybe a class action on behalf of all other gators cruelly exploited in pranks as examples that while gators play in all kinds of weather and stick together they just can't fly.

Jupiter is a north Miami suburb.