“Families with autistic children have sued Walt Disney Co., alleging the company does not provide adequate access to theme park visitors with autism who have difficulty waiting in long lines for rides.” [Reuters/Chicago Tribune]
NBC Today investigates and finds that yes, there does seem to be something to those stories about tactically using disabled passes to steer paying clients past the long lines (earlier).
It got started with the handicapped parking placards that in California and elsewhere made their way into the possession of not-so-disabled drivers. Then there were the reports of abuse of airport wheelchair attendant service, which can get you past security fast and which (to avoid litigation, embarrassment, or both) airlines often dispense on request without inquiring into need. Now comes the rentable disabled person to help your kids cut lines at Disney World. Disney allows parties of up to seven to enter attractions separately when one of the party is disabled. According to the New York Post, some affluent Manhattan mothers are happy to pay for the convenience: “The ‘black-market Disney guides’ run $130 an hour, or $1,040 for an eight-hour day.” [Tara Palmeri, "Rich Manhattan moms hire handicapped tour guides so kids can cut lines at Disney World," New York Post]
P.S. Too good to check? Commenter Marco and Christopher Robbins at Gothamist both have their doubts on whether the hazily sourced accounts might be embellished or worse.
P.P.S. And quite a lot more skepticism about the story from Lesley at XOJane. But (update) an NBC News investigation finds there does seem to be something to the story.
“A disabled man was awarded $8,000 by Disneyland after the It’s A Small World ride broke, stranding him for 30 minutes while the theme song played on a loop.” [Georgia Daily News]
P.S. “What’s the award if I can’t stop humming the song?” [@ClayNickel]
Several environmental groups say objects accessible to visitors at Disney parks, such as brass knobs, test positive for lead. “The groups filed suit against Disneyland in April based on a California law that requires businesses to post warnings when lead levels in fixtures and other items exceed certain levels.” Lead in brass and similar stable alloys is often regarded as posing little or no danger as compared with lead in more readily ingestible forms, but has nonetheless been swept in for similar treatment under various ill-conceived laws. [Orlando Sentinel]
A quadriplegic man says Disney took 40 minutes to evacuate him from a stalled ride at its California theme park, prompting dangerous high blood pressure, and that had it followed Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards it would have gotten his wheelchair out more quickly. The pain and suffering were exacerbated, the plaintiff says, by “the continuous, ‘small world’ music in the background.” [Orange County Register]
William Saletan investigates a curious genre of harassment case [Slate; more at Atlantic Wire]
Cory Doctorow describes what sounds like a heavily lawyered-up recommendation process. [Flickr]
After 18 years of litigation, a judge has dismissed all remaining infringement claims by “Winnie the Pooh” heirs against Disney [American Lawyer; earlier here, here, etc.]
- Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Tex.) doesn’t think Rep. Waxman’s pretend hearing Sept. 10 was enough, and writes a letter to Reps. Waxman and Rush (PDF courtesy Motorcycle Industry Council) explaining why a real hearing is needed (including as an addendum my WSJ piece from last Monday).
- Speaking of CPSIA author Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), he’s praised the new rhinestone ban [Woldenberg]
- At the Wall Street Journal, a letter to the editor regarding my op-ed of last week generally agrees with its thrust but claims that I “[err] when assigning blame to consumer groups” among others for the enactment. I find this charge baffling, since groups like Public Citizen, PIRG and the Consumer Federation of America 1) were routinely cited in the press during the bill’s run-up to enactment as key advocates of its more extreme provisions, 2) have loudly claimed credit for enacting those provisions and the overall bill ever since, 3) have been routinely cited this year in the press as key opponents of any effort to revisit the law in Congress. Why strive to excuse them from a responsibility that they gladly shoulder? Carter Wood at ShopFloor also notes that labor unions unwisely cheered on their purported consumer-group allies, a stance one hopes they are rethinking in light of the statute’s actual effects on American employers and jobs.
- BoardGameGeek had a discussion of the law again this summer, mostly focusing on the tracking label rules and the burden they pose to makers of new games, but also noting the thrift/reseller effects (earlier). Meanwhile, Handmade Toy Alliance activist Dan Marshall notes on Twitter, “Just spoke with guy who invented a board game about dinosaurs. He’s paying $2400 to get it tested 4 #CPSIA and is mad as hell about Mattel.”
- So let’s all panic now: NPR reports minute amounts of lead alloy in a Disney-branded zipper.
- Before CPSIA came along, Illinois lawmakers enacted their own lead law which, stunt-like, sets an even lower permissible lead level often flunked by common substances such as ordinary garden dirt, according to Rick Woldenberg (earlier on dirt, and related on rocks). More: Wacky Hermit.
PUBLIC DOMAIN IMAGES from Ethel Everett, illustrator, Nursery Rhymes (1900), courtesy ChildrensLibrary.org.
Disney, Universal and Busch Entertainment weren’t eager to discuss the details of their legal defense but that didn’t stop the Orlando Sentinel from developing a searchable database of 477 state and federal cases filed against the three companies over the years 2004-08. Most cases were slip-falls, very few went to trial as opposed to settling, and in general the companies seemed to enjoy a fair bit of success both at satisfying patrons before their discontents reached the stage of lawsuits and at defending against the suits if brought.
It seems the companies are also willing to utilize provisions of Florida law that go further in the direction of “loser-pays” than do the laws of many other states:
Plaintiffs who lose sometimes end up footing the theme parks’ legal bills. The theme-park companies can, and do, go after unsuccessful plaintiffs, seeking reimbursement for their legal expenses. Under Florida law, anyone who sues anyone else over a personal injury faces this possibility. If the defendant offers a settlement but the plaintiff rejects it and then loses the case (or, in some circumstances, even if the plaintiff wins the case), the defendant can demand the plaintiff pay the defendant’s legal bills.
Reports of other successful defendants pressing their rights under such provisions in Florida or elsewhere are not exactly common, leaving the question of whether 1) the theme parks are making more aggressive use of the Florida rules than other defendants, 2) plaintiffs who go to trial against theme parks are atypical in some way, or 3) other defendants use the fee-shift provisions too, but we just don’t hear about it much.