Quadriplegic man sues Disneyland for being stuck on Small World

Posted Thursday, February 10, 2011 12:12 PM | Contributed by Jeff

A quadriplegic Disneyland visitor is suing the parent company for failing to evacuate him from the broken "it's a small world" ride, the lawsuit says, prompting dangerously high blood pressure. Jose Martinez of San Pedro filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Monday, saying the Walt Disney Co. violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to have adequate evacuation procedures for visitors with mobility disabilities.

Read more from The Orange County Register.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011 12:13 PM

While we can joke about how that song is in fact torture, I have to say that getting the man out in the station was probably the single safest thing they could have done. You might get anxious in that situation, but I think it should be obvious that you're in no danger, and there's no reason to panic.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011 12:25 PM

"We're not just trying to sue because it's available. To us, it's to make the proper changes (at the park)," Martinez said.

I'm all for someone bringing litigation against a company if they were endangered and all, but seriously?

My only concern is would they be able to get him out in an emergency situation? The fact that the ride stopped moving is not an emergency situation. This is no diffent that someone without a disability being stranded on a ride for 40 minutes. As long as they have the ability to get him out in the event of an emergency, I'm with Disney on this. If he just started having a panic attack because he was stuck listening to "it's a small world" for 40 minutes in a boat, compeltely safe, I'm sorry, but that's just not good enough for me.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011 12:27 PM

I feel bad for the guy. But if he can get the judge to play Its a Small World in the jury room during deliberations, the jury will return with a verdict in his favor in 10 mins tops.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011 1:07 PM

I still think that ride would be more fun if you had a bucket of softballs when you boarded.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011 1:08 PM

I'd probably panic, too, because, as any logical person would expect, it will start back up again, only really fast and throw me off the ride...not unlike the carousel in RCT when it breaks down.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011 1:12 PM

If anyone can keep their sanity through 40 minutes of that song, they have some mental strength!

But regardless, the suit is ridiculous and if it gets beyond the settlement stage, this should be a cut and dry easy win for Disney.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011 1:24 PM

Jeff said:
I still think that ride would be more fun if you had a bucket of softballs when you boarded.

I'm thinking grenade launchers.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011 1:25 PM

You'd think they would at least turn down the music to a whisper when the ride stops.

I wonder if it is policy for operators to be aware at all times of how many disabled persons are on the ride at any given time just in case there really is a dire emergency that requires immediate evactuation?

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Thursday, February 10, 2011 1:29 PM

Nuclear weapons.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011 1:55 PM

"Disney sent Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse to perform for Martinez at first aid."

Where was Donald? Off groping someone?

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Thursday, February 10, 2011 2:20 PM

My understanding is that the boat modifications to allow roll-on chairs are relatively recent. What are the odds that Disney Legal didn't review and sign off on any operational guidelines for those new boats? Probably zero. And, given Disney's past experience with folks using the ADA for various other reasons (*cough*segways*cough*) I'm sure they fine-tooth-combed it.

I'd guess that this suit goes away quietly, and The Number is a lot lower than the one Mr. Martinez is hoping for.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011 3:09 PM

Wow, if Disney (and every other park) is going to have to make modifications to allow every guest to evacuate from every possbile stopping point, it's going to be CRAZY expensive. Just imainging the walk-down we made on the stairways from Kraken...if all evac points need an elevator system, every MCBR and block-brake in the country would need them. Flumes and dark rides would all need *major* modifications...

I'm all for accessibility and what-not...but where is the limit?

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Thursday, February 10, 2011 4:38 PM

Good point, Gator, except that you forgot the grandfather clause. Newly designed rides would need to offer insane evac methods, but old rides would probably not need to be redesigned.

I do find it funny that he is quoted mentioning the music annoyed him. lol

EDIT - They also mention the music on their own videotaping of the incident, which can be seen here.

Last edited by LostKause, Thursday, February 10, 2011 4:43 PM
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Thursday, February 10, 2011 5:25 PM

I've been going through the Americans with Disabilities Act recently for something else which is why I have the actual standard bookmarked. I'd go through it a little more to see what it says about amusement rides, but I have a Thermo test tomorrow morning that I've been studying for all day. Relevant sections are here and here. (If you care, which I doubt you will once you've looked at them for 30 seconds)

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Thursday, February 10, 2011 5:59 PM

I have seen and been told about some lawsuits against seasonal parks that just make my jaw drop. Are Americans for real?!? It will get to the point, if the insanity of it doesn't stop, that amusement parks could end up ceasing to exist when every customer who trips on a sidewalk crack and/or twists a finger on midway game continues to file suit and either wins or settles. There is some level where it gets to the point of not being worth it for parks, especially small operations.

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Friday, February 11, 2011 12:02 AM

It's hard to render a medical opinion based on limited information provided in a news story, however from what little that is presented, I suspect Disney will settle this case quickly out of court. Patients with spinal cord injuries can develop what is called autonomic dysreflexia during which their blood pressure can quickly increase to dangerously high levels. It can be brought on by something as simple as a urinary catheter being plugged causing bladder distension. It's not uncommon in patients with spinal cord injuries. Our VA hospital received a large federal grant to open a large spinal cord injury ward, and our ER will see patients presenting with autonomic dysreflexia. Although few details are provided, I suspect Disney will try to quickly settle this case.

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Friday, February 11, 2011 10:43 AM

I figure they'll settle quickly too, and for cheaper than going to court. Having said that, if you have an injury and are at risk for autonomic dysreflexia, I don't think you should be riding any ride. If you have medical problems and know that something completely normal like being stuck (safely) for 40 minutes could be life threatening, then you shouldn't be riding. Period. Disney can't make that decision.

To me thats no different than being stuck on a sky tower cabin, 300' in the air for 40 minutes. I mean, as long as you're safe, it's a suck inconvenience, but the park shouldn't be responsible if you're physically endangered by something like that. IMO of course.

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Friday, February 11, 2011 10:50 AM

Who do you sue if you're stuck in traffic for 40 minutes?

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Friday, February 11, 2011 11:09 AM

God. Duh. ;)

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