The litigious world of Disney: Lawsuits brought against Disney theme parks

The litigious world of Disney: Lawsuits brought against Disney theme parks

For large doses of delight, adults and children alike turn to the wonderful world of Disney. And Disney’s talking animals, house of horrors, superheroes, high school musicals, and other otherworldly beings can all be experienced in their enchanted theme parks.

But the Walt Disney Company has also been riddled with real-life troubles in the form of lawsuits. Disney theme parks allegedly receive hundreds of personal injury lawsuits every year. And while we don’t intend to make light of the more serious cases like those involving gender pay equality, some are too funny, too strange, and too magical and merit inclusion in this blog.

The therapeutic Tower of Terror

For many casual Disneyland visitors, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is a chilling escape into the dimensions of their imagination. For Denise Mooty, it’s just therapy.

In 2009, Ms. Mooty, who was suffering from abdominal lesions, discovered the therapeutic potential of riding the terror tower an astounding 50 times a day. She claimed that repeatedly getting on the drop-tower ride helped relieve her abdominal pains. She was even able to obtain a Guest Assistance Card, which not only allowed her to take several rides but also let her skip the line.

But a new manager revoked her privileges and reduced her previously unlimited rides to only four rides a day. Displeased, Ms. Mooty used foul language for the “injustice,” causing her to get banned not just from the Tower of Terror but from all Disney properties. She sued Disneyland for breach of contract, false arrest, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

She may have denied using foul language, but she couldn’t deny being soothed by Rod Serling’s haunting voice.

A world of tears in a Small World ride

Forty minutes can feel like an eternity if you get stuck on a Disneyland ride in which the maddening tune “It’s A Small World” plays on loop. Such was the fate of Jose Martinez in 2009 when he got stuck at Disneyland’s It’s a Small World ride.

When it comes to theme park horrors, there are much worse fates. You could get stuck upside down in a roller coaster or get injured getting chased by a pretend-chainsaw maniac in horror-themed attractions. Surely, Mr. Martinez could have just looked at the bright side of things, no?

What made Mr. Martinez’s case aggravating was the fact that a) he was in a wheelchair, b) he was suffering from panic attacks and high blood pressure, c) he needed to urinate, and d) “It’s a Small World” was playing on loop, which no one thought to stop playing during the fiasco. He was awarded $8,000 for his pain and suffering caused by the park’s violation of disability laws.

The three naughty, not-so-little pigs

Fifer Pig, Fiddler Pig, and Practical Pig, collectively known as the Three Little Pigs, may have upheld different values when they came of age in the ’30s. But in recent times, wanton acts of fat-shaming have become highly frowned upon.

In the strangest of scenarios, it may even be the cause of a lawsuit as in the case of one woman who claimed that she was harassed and grabbed by three Disney theme park employees. According to the unnamed victim, who weighed 240 pounds, the costumed actors in the Disney Parks attraction ran to her, screaming “Mommy! Mommy!”

The woman sued Disney Parks Corp. for assault, battery, and humiliation for $150,000. The park’s attorneys defended the company, claiming that Fifer, Fiddler, and Practical are short and have stubby arms that could not have grabbed the accuser. The plaintiff dropped the charges.

And as the case happened in the ’70s, the mystery of who among the pig brothers were guilty can no longer be ascertained. One key takeaway from all this is that it is highly unbecoming, not to mention audacious, of the pigs to be making light of anybody’s size.

Winnie the slapper

A case could be made against a bear that refuses to wear pants and insists on wearing a crop top that’s several sizes too small. Any bear could be easily forgiven for such a crime, but not for violence against children.

In 1981, a case involving a Disney theme park employee almost tarnished the image of one of the world’s most famous bears. A Disney Park employee playing Winnie the Pooh in costume was accused of slapping a young girl who claimed to have suffered from headaches and possible brain injury.

The employee denied the accusation by demonstrating to the jury in his Pooh costume that the costume’s arms were too low to the ground to be used to slap the child. The demonstration proved effective as the jury absolved the employee.

To this day, Winnie the Pooh’s reputation remains unharmed, but for that one girl in 1981, the image of a life-sized Pooh may always conjure a ridiculously attired, occasionally jiggly bear who slaps children.

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