has reached out to the federal agency investigating the February death
of a killer-whale trainer at SeaWorld Orlando about the possibility of
negotiating a settlement even before the safety probe is complete,
according to a source familiar with the inquiry.
The goal is to strike what is known as a “pre-citation settlement” with the
Pre-emptive agreements with
to effectively blunt any fallout from the closely watched probe by
ensuring that it ends as quickly as possible — and by avoiding the kind
of scathing indictment that investigators issued three years ago after
a separate incident at a
It was not clear whether
put the entertainment industry “on notice” last month after a string of
worker deaths and injuries, including deaths at SeaWorld Orlando and
The source familiar with
interest in a pre-citation settlement spoke only on condition of
anonymity because the person is not authorized by either party to
discuss the issue.
In a prepared statement,
“As part of this process,
at this time, however,” the company said. “Because the agency has not
yet concluded its inspection, it would be inappropriate to comment
“It’s an open investigation,”
Wald, though, did characterize pre-citation settlements as “very unusual.”
To represent the company in the
Corporate lawyers say there are several reasons companies under investigation by
For one, negotiating an advance agreement can help a business avoid a situation in which
might cite an entire string of safety violations, rather than focusing
one or two key issues. Even if a business successfully appeals some of
those violations, doing so involves both expensive litigation costs and
continued negative publicity.
With an advance settlement, “you can reach an agreement and separate the wheat from the chaff — before it comes out,” said
Such agreements also ensure that
findings are framed in a more favorable light for the business being
scrutinized. Any announcement of citations also includes details of
“There’s usually a more positive tone in the press release,” Lastowka said. “There’s agreement and finality.”
broadly criticized the company after an investigation into the injury
of a SeaWorld San Diego trainer who was bitten on the legs while
performing with a killer whale. In a report issued after that probe,
“If someone hasn’t been killed already, it is only a matter of time before it does happen,” the agency warned.
company blasted the report as “riddled with inaccuracies, speculation
and superficial suppositions” — and Cal/
is unlikely to have any specific rules governing such an activity, any
citations will almost certainly stem from its vaguely worded “general
Often described as a “catchall” clause for the
agency, the provision states only that employers must provide a
workplace “free from recognized hazards” that are likely to cause
serious injury or death.
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