Lawsuits Brought Against Disney

    In today's world, people who suffer serious injuries typically pursue two types of therapy.  First, they try to recover from their initial injuries and then they seek compensation for their pain in the form of lawsuits.  Disney has been the target of many lawsuits because of the large size and obvious wealth of the corporation.  In the lawsuit world, the biggest targets have the deepest pockets.  In a period of 40 years more than 1,500 lawsuits have been filed against the park.  At any given time, they are juggling at least 100 active cases (Koening, 1995).  According to Orange County Superior Court records, less than a fourth of all resolved cases made it to trial, and the park has won over 80% of them.  To win a suit against Disney, you have about a 4% chance of making it to court and winning.  The park usually settles out of court.  In the last 10 years only a handful of cases have gone to trial; however, some notable cases have made headlines and were awarded a huge payout.

    In one particular attraction, guests are permitted to ride mules, this has been the source of many lawsuits.  One woman was thrown from her mule and then trampled, even though Disney secretly videotaped the woman shopping around town after the accident, the jury awarded the woman $41,084.03 in 1971.  The largest settlement following an attraction accident was granted to a 28-year old former employee.  In 1980, Denise Guerrero was working the Space Mountain loading dock, checking safety bars.  In pushing one bar down, she became entagled as the ride left the loading dock.  She was dragged 25 feet and received severe bruises, cuts, a broken pelvis and ankle, in addition to injuring her back.  Disneyland agreed to pay out $154,000 in cash plus $240,000 in a tax-free annuity program for the rest of her life.

    Disney has a written policy prohibiting any type of discrimination.  However, some lawsuits in the 1980's claimed discrimination based on sexual orientation.  In a few cases homosexual couples were asked not to dance together.  One same sex couple claimed protection cited in the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which permits anyone to use business facilities without regard to such factors as sex.  Disneyland countered stating that the park is a private facility and contains a policy calling for ejection of "individuals or groups who may by their actions, dress or attitudes interfere with or jeopardize the enjoyment Disneyland gives to others," as cited by (Roth, 1980).

    Lawsuits brought against Disney are usually settled out of court, and if they do go to court, there is a slim chance of the plantiff winning.  Disney does have deep pockets and can drag a case on indefinitely.  If Disney believes they are not liable they will take the lawsuit to court, "If we think we are not in the wrong, we're going to fight," said the late W. Mike McCray, the lawyer who represented the park during its first 30 years (Koening, 1995).

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This tutorial was produced for Psy 324, Advanced Social Psychology, Spring 1999 at Miami University.  All graphics are from the public domain, used with permission or under fair use guidelines, or were created by the authors.  Social Psychology / Miami University (Ohio USA).  Last revised: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 22:58:20. This document has been accessed 18,834 times since 1 May 1999. Comments & Questions to R. Sherman