Today marks 59 years of operation for Disneyland, which opened its doors July 17, 1955. But over the ensuing six decades, the "Happiest Place on Earth" has been the setting for many personal injury lawsuits.
In fact, over a five-year period from 2007 to 2012, Disneyland was sued for personal injuries nearly 140 times, according to a review of court records.
Still, not all of those lawsuits were successful. Here are five lessons that can be learned from Disney's long list of personal injury lawsuits:
- Even someone injured mostly through their own fault can potentially recover. A recent incident at Disneyland's East Coast counterpart Disney World in which a man's fingertips were severed illustrates a little-known legal doctrine. The man's fingers were injured after he allegedly failed to heed warnings to keep his hands inside a vehicle. But Florida and many other states follow the comparative negligence approach, in which even a person who is 90 percent responsible for his own injuries can still recover for the 10 percent fault of the other party.
- Even seemingly minor incidents can make for successful lawsuits. A disabled man who was stuck on Disneyland's legendary "It's a Small World" ride for about 30 minutes after it malfunctioned was awarded $8,000 by a federal judge. The man claimed that being stuck on the ride was dangerous to him because he suffered from panic attacks, had a blood pressure condition, and needed to go to the bathroom.
- Disabled people must be given reasonable accommodations. Disneyland has also been hit with several lawsuits by disabled people filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires businesses to give "reasonable accommodations" to people with disabilities. In a 2012 case, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the park's prohibition on Segways was a violation of the ADA; the court ruled that Disneyland should allow a woman with muscular dystrophy to use her Segway in the park unless it could prove it wouldn't be safe to do so.
- Most cases never make it to trial. The Orange County Register's review of five years' worth of personal injury lawsuits against Disneyland found that the majority of them were either dismissed or were settled before trial. Of the nearly 140 cases brought against the park from 2007 to 2012, only one case was actually successful following a jury trial.
- You'll need a good lawyer on your side. Succeeding in a personal injury lawsuit, even one that settles before going to trial, can be exceptionally complicated. A personal injury lawyer will know what you need to prove, how to navigate the complicated civil court process, and how to negotiate with the other side.
To learn more about personal injuries at Disneyland or other theme parks, check out our post on 5 Ways to Sue Over Theme Park Injuries or consult an experienced personal injury lawyer near you.
- Get in touch with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney in your area today (FindLaw)
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