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Disney

“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]

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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).

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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.

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“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]

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Disabled rights roundup

by Walter Olson on December 18, 2012

  • More reactions, besides mine, to Senate’s non-ratification of U.N. disabled-rights treaty [Hans Bader, NYT Room for Debate including notably David Kopel's, Julian Ku ("Support Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Because It Doesn’t Do Anything!"), Tyler Cowen (keep powder dry for bigger ratification battles), Peter Spiro (proposes end run around Senate)] More, Sept. 2013: Eric Voeten, Monkey Cage and more (dismissing as insignificant U.N. committee reports criticizing countries for alleged violations because “these reports can be and often are ignored,” and accusing treaty critics of being mere “conservative fantasists” because they take at their word their counterpart “liberal fantasists” who expect and welcome erosion of U.S. autonomy in domestic policy.)
  • As Department of Justice rolls out Olmstead settlements to more states, battles continue between disabled rights advocates seeking closure of large congregate facilities and family members who fear mentally disabled loved ones will fare worse in “community” settings [Philadelphia City Paper via Bagenstos, NYT on Georgia, earlier, more background] More, Sept. 2013: And here’s someone claiming that I’ve got it all wrong, Olmstead has already pre-settled whatever claims to a right-to-care might reasonably be asserted under CRPD. I don’t think so.
  • “Utilityman can’t climb utility poles, but has ADA claim against utility company” [Eric Meyer]
  • Kozinski: Disney “obviously mistaken” in arguing against use of Segway by disabled visitors [Sam Bagenstos; related, Walt Disney World, Eleventh Circuit]
  • Wendy’s franchisee agrees to pay $41,500 in EEOC settlement after turning away hearing-impaired cook applicant [EEOC]
  • California enacts compromise bill aimed at curtailing ADA filing mills [Sacramento Bee, LNL]
  • “Train your managers and supervisors never to discuss employees’ medical issues.” [Jon Hyman]

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January 21 roundup

by Walter Olson on January 21, 2012

  • Because judges should decide cases the way clamoring crowds want them to: “Occupy the Courts” [Althouse, Somin, earlier] Pittsburgh lawprof: bank’s office park has become public forum and is ours to seize [Daily Caller]
  • Some reactions to Megaupload indictment [Julian Sanchez, Ken at Popehat]
  • Kozinski, others trade quips at oral argument in Disneyland Segway ADA case [Courthouse News via Disabilities Law, earlier] “Ouch! Judge Posner eviscerates both a damages expert and the trial judge who let him testify against FedEx” [Technology Law Notes]
  • Victim of NYC gun laws: “Free Meredith Graves” [NRO] “NYC Business Bled To Death Over Toy Guns” [Moonbattery]
  • “Old Enough to Fight, Old Enough to Swipe: A Critique of the Infancy Rule in the Federal Credit Card Act” [Andrew Schwartz (Colorado), SSRN, via Ted Frank]
  • Federal drug cops unapologetic about role in Adderall shortage [Rob Port] A failure of central planning [Reuters, Jacob Sullum and more ("Does the DEA know what 'quota' means?")] Some trial lawyers pushing to ban the drug [via Ted Frank].
  • Go, my child, and steal no more: TSA agents who pilfered $40K from luggage get six months [AP via Balko]

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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]

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May 16 roundup

by Walter Olson on May 16, 2011

  • The Economist on the future of the legal business;
  • Hairpin reversals of fortune in long-running Barbie v. Bratz doll fight [Cal Biz Lit, earlier]
  • As I note in Schools for Misrule, institutional reform litigation is alive and well: Reinhardt says 9th Circuit should take over VA’s mental health efforts, Kozinski dissents [LAT, AP, The Recorder]
  • Court rejects Koch suit over spoof website posing as Koch’s to make political points [EFF, earlier]
  • “Romeo and Juliet” amendment could soften harsh Texas sex-offense laws [Lenore Skenazy] Law isn’t especially protective of teen boys persuaded to sign paternity declarations [Amy Alkon]
  • “Disney Trademarks ‘Seal Team 6′” [Atlantic Wire]
  • Great moments in human rights law: UK high court rules airplane hijackers should have been admitted to country as refugees [five years ago on Overlawyered]

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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]

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William Saletan investigates a curious genre of harassment case [Slate; more at Atlantic Wire]

May 5 roundup

by Walter Olson on May 5, 2010

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Cory Doctorow describes what sounds like a heavily lawyered-up recommendation process. [Flickr]

October 8 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 8, 2009

  • Judge rules Segways not necessary to accommodation at Disney World, throws out settlement negotiated by disabled rights group [Bloomberg, WSJ Law Blog; background here and here] More: OnPoint News (disputing claims of Disney victory).
  • “Too Many Lawyers or Too Many Laws?” [Somin, Volokh, on Scalia; earlier]
  • More on the $500K award to woman who escaped first WTC bombing and broke ankle ten days later [John Hochfelder in comments]
  • $3 million race bias suit against Martha Stewart Living magazine seems to have followed protest over home furnishing item often described as “coolie-hat” lampshade [NY Post]
  • Skyboxes for the mayor and city councilors who approved the stadium — and this is ethically OK? [Coyote]
  • Getting kind of meta: “Lawyer Says Lawyer Defamed Him in Press Release About Defamation Suit” [NLJ]
  • “Free credit score” firm backs off legal effort to identify critical blogger — but who’s this they’ve identified as their foe? [Paul Levy, Consumer Law & Policy, Felix Salmon, earlier]
  • EEOC says Catholic college “discriminated against women by removing coverage for prescription contraceptives from [its] health insurance plan” [Gaston, N.C. Gazette via LaborProf]

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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.]

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CPSIA chronicles, September 20

by Walter Olson on September 20, 2009

  • 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).
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  • 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.
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PUBLIC DOMAIN IMAGES from Ethel Everett, illustrator, Nursery Rhymes (1900), courtesy ChildrensLibrary.org.

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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.

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February 18 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 18, 2009

  • Golfer’s ball bounces off yardage marker and hits him in eye, and he sues; not the Florida case we blogged last month, this one took place in New Hampshire [Manchester Union-Leader]
  • Who needs democracy, much easier just to let the Litigation Lobby run things: elected Illinois lawmakers keep enacting limits on med-mal awards, but trial-lawyer-friendly Illinois Supreme Court keeps striking them down, third round pending at the moment [Peoria Journal-Star, Alton Telegraph, Illinois Times, Reality Medicine (ISMS)]
  • “A sword-wielding, parent-killing psychopath can be such a help around the house.” [we have funny commenters]
  • Brooklyn lawyer Steven Rondos, charged with particularly horrendous looting of incapacitated clients’ estates [earlier], said to have served the New York State Bar Association “as vice president of its guardianship committee” [NYPost]
  • Updated annals of public employee tenure: Connecticut state lawyer who assumed bogus identity to write letter that got her boss fired drew a $1000 fine as well as a reprimand — and then got a raise [Jon Lender/Hartford Courant and more, earlier here and here]
  • Judge Bobby DeLaughter indicted and arraigned as new chapter of Dickie Scruggs judicial-corruption story gets under way in Mississippi; Tim Balducci and Steve Patterson, central figures in Scruggs I, each draw 2-year sentences [NMC/Folo and more, more, YallPolitics, more, earlier on Balducci, DeLaughter]
  • Disney “Tower of Terror” ride not therapeutic for all patrons: British woman sues saying she suffered heart attack and stroke after riding it several times [AP]
  • Convicted of torching his farm, Manitoba man sues his insurance company for not making good on policy [five years ago on Overlawyered]

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“A Florida woman who claims the G-forces from a theme park ride relieve her chronic pain has sued Walt Disney World for breaching its contract with visitors by limiting her to four rides per visit on its Tower of Terror. … In a complaint filed last month in Osceola County, Fla., Denise Mooty alleges she needs the Tower of Terror for therapy rather than thrills.” Disney denies the charges and says Mooty was made to leave the park “for causing a disturbance within the presence of other guests and using foul language toward a Cast Member.” [Heller, OnPoint News]

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