Disabled man awarded $8,000 for being stuck on Disneyland's Small World

Posted Wednesday, March 27, 2013 8:20 AM | Contributed by Jeff

A disabled man who was stuck inside Disneyland's "It's A Small World" ride four years ago and later sued the amusement park has been awarded $8,000 in a court decision, the man's attorney said Tuesday.

Read more from The LA Times.

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Friday, March 29, 2013 11:40 AM
Tekwardo's avatar

I agree there's no sense in the lawsuit. Like Jeff said he's darned either way. But to say he was in no danger was an assumption none of us can make.


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Friday, March 29, 2013 11:52 AM

The award was eight grand? His attorney is going to get all of that and then some, unless he went pro bono.

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Friday, March 29, 2013 11:56 AM
rollergator's avatar

I thought these types of lawsuits typically went for 1/3 of recovery of damages.

NB: I'm not a lawyer, and didn't stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night...

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Friday, March 29, 2013 10:46 PM

It depends upon the attorney, but yeah ordinarily he would have taken about three grand out of the award.

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Monday, April 1, 2013 12:19 PM
Break Trims's avatar

Despite the usual Chicken Little "This is why the American legal system is so messed up..." rhetoric, this settlement amount seems about right. It reflects more than a simple nuisance value amount, but it's not a huge amount, because the injury, while actual, wasn't huge. At a $2,666.66 legal fee, it doesn't represent a windfall for the lawyer either. Going up against Disney's lawyers, I'm guessing it wasn't a cakewalk.

Most people who coment on news of the settlement of a lawsuit don't say, "Seems about right," but I'll do just that.

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Monday, April 1, 2013 12:49 PM

^^ I was kinda thinking that at least he didn't get a ton of money, but unless I'm REALLY not understanding why he felt he had to sue, I still don't get how he won ANY money from Disney. The only thing I can possibly see is that they failed to provide access the evacuate the gondola at any point in the ride, but this is true of every amusement park ride in the world. I'm also not understanding how the park discriminated against those with disabilities in this case as him and his wife suggested.


"Look at us spinning out in the madness of a roller coaster" - Dave Matthews Band

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Monday, April 1, 2013 2:36 PM
Vater's avatar

I get that it wasn't necessarily a ridiculously exorbitant settlement amount, but my point remains that this seems (to me) like a needless lawsuit, like far too many are these days. It just confirms the growing sense of entitlement to everything that people have anymore. No one can be even slightly inconvenienced anymore without turning to the legal system to be compensated for it.

Admittedly I don't know every little detail about the suit. But this article does mention the following tidbit of information that, I dunno, one would think a journalist from the LA Times might have found important enough to include in their story:

While he was stuck on the ride for more than 40 minutes, he suffered from dysreflexia, “a condition experienced by those with spinal cord injuries caused by stress and overstimulation,” CBS reports. Dysreflexia can lead to a stroke or death. Apparently, other passengers were able to evacuate, but because of the location of Mr. Martinez’s wheelchair, operators weren’t able to immediately assist him

What neither article said is whether or not he experienced any of the symptoms or sought medical treatment following the incident. Still I have to wonder, if you knowingly have such a condition, why you would enter an attraction that could potentially exacerbate it.

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Monday, April 1, 2013 4:03 PM
Break Trims's avatar

Also worth noting is that exactly half of the verdict seems to stem from ADA violatons, which have a more fixed punitive value. That leaves only $4k as an actual negligence/non-economic damages verdict.

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Monday, April 1, 2013 4:11 PM

I saw a couple of comments similar to yours on a few sites, Vater, and I agree. If IASW is too "thrilling" of an attraction, or you have concerns that your body may not be able to handle a ride, and if you're THAT medically unstable that being seated in a gondola for a few extra minutes causes you that much stress, you really need to re-evaluate your capability to ride such a ride.

I never want to say that people with disabilities cannot do certain things or that I don't admire any person with a disability for pushing their limits and standing up for themselves (that was NOT a pun...lol), but I also think people need to be realistic and analyze a situation before putting themselves in it. No one takes personal responsibility for their actions anymore. There is no accountability for one's actions, and everyone else pays the price. I don't always disagree with the lawsuits when it is clearly a case of negligence that a park or other facility could have avoided or where the facility was obviously aware of a problem and did nothing to fix the problem.

The man was said to have needed to stabilize for around three hours. Whether this was because he sought medical attention and found to be unstable or if this is him stating that he didn't feel good for about three hours afterwards, I don't know.


"Look at us spinning out in the madness of a roller coaster" - Dave Matthews Band

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Monday, April 1, 2013 7:46 PM
LostKause's avatar

I bought a Route 66 size Diet Cherry Limeade from Sonic a few weeks ago with my meal. I suffer from a twitch in my hand when I get excited, and I was very excited about drinking that delicious beverage with Diet Sprite and real limes and cherries! Just after my second delightful sip, I twitched and squeezed the flimsy, soft styrofoam cup, and the lid popped off. The giant cup of heaven fell out of my hand and it's refreshing contents fell all over the floor of my vehicle.

I think I will sue Sonic for the inconvenience. I had no drink to enjoy with my Tots and Sonic Burger, and I had to dig the carpet shampooer out of the garage to clean my car's carpet, which took about ten minutes.

Sounds just about as "goofy" as suing Disneyland because a medical condition was irritated from being stuck on a ride for 40 minutes too long.


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Monday, April 1, 2013 7:48 PM
Jeff's avatar

There's an added layer of conflict here where nobody wins. The park is not (and shouldn't have to be) qualified to determine whether someone is fit enough to ride something. That leaves the responsibility of rider fitness with the rider. I don't think it's unreasonable to expect what's in this ride, and what could potentially happen in terms of failure. I guess I'm just naively thinking that people, even with injuries and disabilities, have to take some amount of responsibility for what their limitations are.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Twitter - Video

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Monday, April 1, 2013 8:15 PM

Jeff, I agree that people should be able to fairly gauge what they can and cannot ride. However, then that gets into very gray territory. For instance, the man who rode Bizarro at Six Flags and had no legs (actually, that might have been RoS at Darien, I don't remember) should have been able to determine that as someone with no legs, a lapbar would not exactly work and he would run extreme risk of being ejected. Now, these are two very different examples that on the surface don't relate, but in the long run, doesn't that kind of lead to all sorts of questions as to where do the parks draw the line?


"Look at us spinning out in the madness of a roller coaster" - Dave Matthews Band

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Monday, April 1, 2013 9:20 PM
LostKause's avatar

Not all disabilities are visible, bunky. But good point.


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Monday, April 1, 2013 10:48 PM

Oh no, I agree with that, Travis. Guess I should have distinguished between physical and disabilities of the mind, communication disorders, etc., but that also brings up the point of who then decides if a person is capable of riding a ride if that person cannot make that decision known for themselves?

I'm not wording it right yet again...if a person is mentally handicapped to the point where they cannot communicate their desire to ride a ride, who then decides what is okay for that person to ride? I still think about when I saw a little girl loaded into El Toro by a family member or guardian, and she was at LEAST physically disabled to the point she was nonverbal, could not walk, and could not grasp the lapbar. I do not know if there were mental handicaps as well, but in either case, I thought it was absolutely insane for the guardian to think this was not dangerous and also for the ride ops to allow it. Nothing happened, and the girl seemed no worse for the wear at the end, but what if she had been physically injured? Mentally traumatized? I don't think the right decision was made there, and I'm not sure that people can be trusted to make rational, safe decisions if they get it in their heads that "why CAN'T I do this?" I don't think enough people ask themselves whether they logically SHOULD do something.

In any case, this guy made a decision, no true harm came from it (that I can see), and he should have lived with decision without screaming discrimination and suing.


"Look at us spinning out in the madness of a roller coaster" - Dave Matthews Band

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Monday, April 1, 2013 11:33 PM
Carrie J.'s avatar

I'm not so sure about this one. I know I don't even think about evacuations when I ride most rides. The warnings and such that are offered are usually pertinent to riding experience, not evacuations. I can't say if he was traumatized or not. But I don't think it's reasonable for the guest to have to guage the evacuation protocol for all points in the ride before getting onboard.


"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013 12:06 AM
sirloindude's avatar

That's fair, Carrie, but my issue is that it isn't necessarily Disney's fault that you can't handle the time required to evacuate.

Ultimately, I'm not necessarily saying it's the fault of the disabled person either. Frankly, I don't see why this has to be anybody's fault. Sometimes unfortunate things happen, but I fail to see why somebody has to get sued over them. I got stuck on the lift of Alpengeist for just over twenty minutes the first time I rode it and I don't particularly enjoy heights when I'm that exposed, but you know what? Breakdowns happen, and it's unreasonable for me to demand instant evacuation in the event a ride goes down while I'm in a less-than-desirable location. As such, I'm not going to sue, and this guy should have accepted that unfortunate things happen and let it go.


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Tuesday, April 2, 2013 7:49 AM
Break Trims's avatar

Carrie J. said:

But I don't think it's reasonable for the guest to have to gauge the evacuation protocol for all points in the ride before getting onboard.

This seems spot-on to me. There's a gulf of difference that separates foreseeability of the typical ride experience and foreseeability of everything that could go wrong.

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013 9:42 AM
Carrie J.'s avatar

Agreed, BT.

Justin, I get that this guy wasn't harmed much more than inconvenience. But for the sake of intellectual discourse (and because I want to steer FAR away from the argument that indicates disabled people shouldn't be able to ride for fear of all that might go wrong...) let's look at it another way.

The article says that $4,000 of the ruling was for access violations. So while this man was not harmed, what if it was discovered that there are ADA issues that would prevent timely evacuation in the case of a real and urgent emergency? Then is it worth a court ruling to make Disneyland think about their policies and evacuation plans? I'm ok with that.


"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013 9:49 AM
Jeff's avatar

You're not disabled, Carrie, so I don't think you would consider how easily you could evacuate. If I had mobility issues, I would think it would be a part of my daily life, to consider where I can go and what obstacles I might encounter. Is that an unreasonable assumption?


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Twitter - Video

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013 10:02 AM
Carrie J.'s avatar

I think it is at least on an amusement park ride. Parks don't encourage folks to take matters into their own hands in an evacuation scenario. He has to rely on the park to some degree to get him his chair and any other assistance he may need to evacuate. They didn't do that in a timely way.

You're not disabled, either, so how do you know what the experience entails? :-)


"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin

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