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Eckis v. Sea World Corp.

Court of Appeal of California
134 Cal. Rptr. 183 (Cal. Ct. App. 1976)


Facts

Anne Eckis (plaintiff) worked as a secretary for Kent Burgess (defendant), the director of animal training at Sea World Corporation (Sea World) (defendant). Eckis primarily performed secretarial duties but occasionally performed non-secretarial tasks at the request of Burgess. In April 1971, Burgess asked Eckis if she was willing to ride Shamu, a killer whale, for publicity pictures on behalf of Sea World. Eckis, who was a strong swimmer, agreed to participate in the photoshoot. Sea World provided training in preparation for the ride on Shamu and provided the bikini worn by Eckis during the photoshoot. On April 19, 1971, Eckis took three rides on Shamu during Eckis’s normal work hours. During the third ride, Eckis fell off when Shamu refused to obey a signal. Shamu then bit Eckis on the hips and legs and refused to release her. Eckis received 100 to 200 stitches and was unable to work for several weeks. Eckis filed a civil claim to recover compensatory and punitive damages. The jury awarded $75,000 in compensatory damages to Eckis. Sea World appealed, arguing that Eckis was prohibited from pursuing a civil action because her injuries were covered by California’s Worker’s Compensation Act (Act).

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Ault, J.)

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