A US appeals court on Friday upheld a federal occupational safety agency's finding against SeaWorld Entertainment Inc, following the workplace death of one of its killer whale trainers.
The ruling by the US court of appeals for the District of Columbia circuit could have a major impact on how SeaWorld presents its shows, because it would require increased separation of humans and killer whales.
The three-judge panel, split 2-1, held that SeaWorld had violated its duties as an employer by exposing trainers to "recognized hazards" when working with killer whales.
A spokesman for SeaWorld, which operates 11 parks around the US, had no immediate comment on the ruling.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had fined the company $75,000 after trainer Dawn Brancheau died in February 2010. She drowned after being pulled underwater by Tilikum, a 12,000lb bull orca at the SeaWorld site in Orlando, Florida.