Bringing the magic of dinosaurs to life has a high price when it comes to the safety of those visiting Jurassic World. Corporate counsel would have a nervous breakdown with the class action that would soon hit InGen like an Ankylosaurus after the events in the movie.
As InGen’s genetics lab was based in Palo Alto, California (at least in the original book), we will apply California law for our analysis.
InGen attorneys likely had a choice of law and forum selection clause in their travel packages to Isla Nublar off Costa Rica. A prospective forum selection clause for Jurassic World would ideally be in a venue that would be friendly to an amusement park-zoo with dinosaurs, likely with a statutory cap on damages. InGen attorneys might attempt a bold legal move and require all cases would to be brought in Costa Rica.
Attempting to bind all possible dinosaur-injury litigation to Costa Rica would fail. First, California Courts may “exercise jurisdiction on any basis not inconsistent with the Constitution of this state or of the United States.” Cal Code Civ Proc § 410.10. Moreover, if the tickets for Jurassic World required litigation to be in Costa Rica, that clause would serve as a “functional equivalent of a contractual waiver of consumer protection” and would be prohibited by California law, thus rendering the forum selection clause unenforceable, because “rights of California consumers would be substantially diminished if forced to litigate in” a remote venue. Clark v. First Union Securities, Inc. (2007) 153 Cal.App.4th 1595, 1613, citing America Online, Inc. v. Superior Court (2001) 90 Cal.App.4th 1.
Failure to Protect Attendees from Harm as a Common Carrier
There are key moments after Indominus Rex escaped her paddock that Claire Dearing did not order the evacuation of the island. A containment team was instead sent with non-lethal weapons to capture the escaped Indominus Rex. After the mission failure, all park attendees were moved to a central area, where they became a giant target.
Litigation would focus on Claire’s decisions which ultimately resulted in a mass casualty event.
A trial attorney would build the following case theme: Attendees arrived at Isla Nublar by InGen ferry. The ferries were the sole way for guests to travel to or form the island. As such, the guests were totally under the care of Jurassic World, since there would be no way to escape the island without an InGen ferry.
These facts make a very strong case that Jurassic World was a common carrier, not just a zoo where attendees were business invitees, effectively making attendees “passengers” until their return to Costa Rica by ferry.
A common carrier is normally a boat, train, bus, or plane that is a carrier of persons for “reward” (payment). Cal Civ Code § 2100. A common carrier “must use the utmost care and diligence for [the passengers] safe carriage, must provide everything necessary for that purpose, and must exercise to that end a reasonable degree of skill.” Id.
Amusement parks with roller coasters have been found to be common carriers under Cal Civ Code §§ 2100 and 2101. Gomez v. Superior Court (2005) 35 Cal 4th 1125 (in a case about an injury on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland).
Everyone who was on Isla Nublar arrived there by ferry (which is a traditional common carrier); Jurassic World’s operations were overseen by a control room of InGen professionals to ensure the safety of the attendees from the dinosaurs; and InGen employed a paramilitary strike team to subdue escaped dinosaurs.
All Jurassic World attendees were trapped on an island with a rogue dinosaur on a murder-feeding frenzy. The island itself was a giant rollercoaster where attendees were totally under the care of Jurassic World. As such, a good lawyer could establish that Jurassic World owed its attendees the “utmost care and diligence” and had to exercise a reasonable degree of skill. Not ordering an evacuation was a failure to provide the “utmost care and diligence” to the park attendees.
Liability for Dinosaur Attacks
The law requires that the owners of domesticated animals must protect third parties from animal known to have “vicious habits or disposition.” Gooding v. Chutes Co. (1909) 155 Cal. 620, 623. As such, where a new zoo employee was bitten by a camel known by others to have “vicious habits,” the zoo was liable for the employee’s injuries.
Dinosaurs would likely not qualify as domesticated animals, but the triceratops pony rides in the petting zoo demonstrate some domestication. Moreover, the dying Apatosaurus showed signs of being comforted in its final moments. Finally, “Team Raptor” demonstrated Raptors could work with humans, but with great risk of turning on humans.
The Indominus Rex without a doubt had “vicious habits or disposition” that was known by Jurassic World employees. The fact the creature escaped and no evacuation was ordered puts Jurassic World in the hungry jaws of plaintiff lawyers for their failure to protect attendees.
Property Liability for Indominus Rex
Plaintiff attorneys would argue that Jurassic World was negligent as a property owner for the failure to use “reasonable care to keep the property in a reasonably safe condition.” 1-1000 CACI 1001. Moreover, this duty required Jurassic World to “discover any unsafe conditions and to repair, replace, or give adequate warning of anything that could be reasonably expected to harm others.” Id. The failure to warn of the risk of the escaped Indominus Rex was an unsafe condition that put attendees at risk.
A jury would consider these factors in deciding whether Jurassic World exercised reasonable care per the California Jury Instructions:
(a) The location of the property;
The fact Isla Nublar is over 100 miles off Costa Rica with dangerous dinosaurs will not end well with a jury for the Defendant.
(b) The likelihood that someone would come on to the property in the same manner as the Plaintiffs did;
Jurassic World was an amusement park, thus a high likelihood all vistors would enter the property the same way.
(c) The likelihood of harm;
The “likelihood of harm” includes being either eaten or stepped on by a dinosaur, which was well known thanks to the first three movies.
(d) The probable seriousness of such harm;
A jury would not need any expert testimony on the probable seriousness of being eaten by a dinosaur.
(e) Whether Jurassic World knew or should have known of the condition that created the risk of harm;
There is no question of knowledge of the risk.
(f) The difficulty of protecting against the risk of such harm; [and]
Humans engaging dinosaurs in combat was proven to be extremely dangerous to humans in all of the Jurassic Park films. However, removing all attendees by ferry while the Indominus Rex was on the other half of the island would have been time consuming, but not prohibitively difficult.
(g) The extent of Jurassic World’s control over the condition that created the risk of harm; [and]
Jurassic World scientists created the Indominus Rex, thus knew the danger it posed, which is why they had the creature in a paddock that was under the control of Jurassic World.
A Verdict for Extinction
No attorney in their right mind would let a case against Jurassic World go to trial. The prospect of a crushing judgment with punitive damages would force settlement as quickly as possible. The issue for the Plaintiffs would be ensuring the settlement is just for those injured by dinosaurs or surviving family members.