Defamation Lawsuit Filed Against SeaWorld as Part of the Trainer Death Catastrophy and Whistleblower Case

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Numerous law suits and claims are arising as a result of trainer Dawn Brancheau's death at SeaWorld when she was killed by an Orca whale during a performance. After Linda Simons, the former Director of Health and Safety at the park appeared on numerous national television programs and explained the improprieties of Sea World, Sea World rebutted by stating that Linda Simons was extorting them. The latest lawsuit, filed by Mrs. Simons in Brevard County, Florida claims defamation against Mrs. Simons by Sea World.

Arcadier

(OSHA) launched an investigation and on August 24, 2010 issued a scathing report citing SeaWorld with three safety violations and fining them the maximum of $70,000 for the most serious of them, for "willfully" endangering the life of the trainer.

Linda Simons, the former Director of Health and Safety at SeaWorld Orlando, has filed a two-count defamation lawsuit against SeaWorld and its related corporations, alleging a pattern of slander and libel by the park in order to discredit her, prior to several upcoming lawsuits related to the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau at the park.

The lawsuit, filed by Maurice Arcadier, Esq., of Arcadier & Associates, P.A., of Melbourne, Florida seeks a jury trial, punitive damages and an injunction to prevent SeaWorld from further defaming Mrs. Simons. Maurice Arcadier, managing partner of the firm is lead attorney on the case and filed the suit, Case # 05-2010-CA-51145, in the Circuit Court of the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit in and for Brevard County, Florida.

When interviewed, Mr. Arcadier opined as follows: "SeaWorld's outrageous behavior continues. Unfortunately, after doing the wrong thing and not taking accountability for its actions, Sea World has decided not to admit to its improprieties, but rather, has taken root in fighting everyone including Mrs. Simons and even OSHA."

Mrs. Simons had been the acting Director of Health and Safety at the park for just over one week, when trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed by an Orca whale named Tilikum while interacting with him at the end of the “Dine With Shamu” show on February 24, 2010. Tilikum grabbed Dawn by her hair from a small ledge surrounding the pool and dragged her underwater, eventually killing her, while horrified spectators watched and a large group of employees scrambled to corral the whale and save her, putting themselves in grave danger.

Following the incident, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched an investigation and on August 24, 2010 issued a scathing report citing SeaWorld with three safety violations and fining them the maximum of $70,000 for the most serious of them for "willfully" endangering the life of the trainer. In the citation OSHA stated SeaWorld acted, "With plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee health and safety."

OSHA also fined the park $5,000 for failing to install handrails on two stairways and instructed SeaWorld to provide more protections for trainers who work with the park's other killer whales.

During the OSHA investigation Mrs. Simons had been assigned as the liaison between SeaWorld and OSHA and according to Mrs. Simons, despite being repeatedly instructed by SeaWorld officials to, “obstruct the investigation, manipulate documents, withhold documents, make witnesses unavailable, and other improprieties which were unlawful, when a government agency is doing an investigation,” she cooperated fully and completely with OSHA, which led to the eventual citations and fines against SeaWorld in the Dawn Brancheau death.

According to the defamation lawsuit filed by Mrs. Simons, she points to fact that there were actually two OSHA reports that were being prepared, “One by the initial OSHA investigator, and one which was crafted by the OSHA Atlanta office. Due to “political pressures,” the OSHA Atlanta office and the OSHA Washington Office got involved in the preparation of the reports.”

Upon discovering this, and because of the immense pressure being put on her by SeaWorld to act improperly, Mrs. Simons decided she had no choice but to go to the media and talk about all the improprieties of SeaWorld, the deplorable safety conditions she saw at the park and the situations that led to Dawn Brancheau's death. The sole reason she did this was so the truth about Dawn's death, the safety conditions at the park and the pressure by SeaWorld for her to act improperly during a federal investigation would come out. She appeared on numerous TV shows, including: Good Morning America, Larry King Live, Inside Edition, MSNBC, Fox Business News and others, as well as gave numerous newspaper interviews.

Immediately afterwards, SeaWorld terminated her employment, citing Mrs. Simon's termination was due to poor performance. This led to an unlawful termination lawsuit that has been also filed by Mrs. Simons through Arcadier & Associates, in response to the firing and an OSHA retaliation complaint being filed against SeaWorld by Mrs. Simons.

According to the defamation lawsuit, after Mrs. Simons went public, SeaWorld went on the offensive and launched a media blitz of their own, on many of the same media outlets Mrs. Simons had appeared on. SeaWorld has used these appearances to attack, defame and slander Mrs. Simons. In these appearances they are alleging that she had repeatedly demonstrated an inability to conduct herself to the acceptable standards of competence, that she repeatedly demonstrated an inability to conduct herself with transparency, that she had repeatedly demonstrated an inability to conduct herself with integrity and that she had repeatedly demonstrated an inability to conduct herself with professionalism. SeaWorld alleged this seemingly long, repeated history by Mrs. Simons, after less than two months on the job.

According to the lawsuit SeaWorld also, “Offered money to the Plaintiff in exchange for Plaintiff’s silence and release of her claims. Plaintiff refused to sign the agreement.” SeaWorld is countering this by stating that Mrs. Simons tried to extort money from them, in exchange for not going public with her claims.

No date for the trial has been set yet.

To keep up to date on the progress of the case you can read the article, Simons v. SeaWorld (Defamation) on our website, or for further information on any legal issues you may have please visit http://www.melbournelegalteam.com/ or call them at (321) 953-5998.

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Maurice Arcadier
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