WDW Litigation Update Septeober 5, 2019 - Concierge Bugs

jcb

always emerging from hibernation
Joined
Apr 28, 2007
Readers of this forum seem to have an interest (likely one that falls into the morbid category) about Walt Disney World litigation. I could update threads but will instead link to them here. I do this update because lawsuit get tons of sensational publicity when filed but the media often loses interest after the value of the initial click bait has worn off.

The lady who sued Disney for allegedly refusing to let her bring multiple service dogs onto its property lost her lawyer. Last October (2018), the court parred down her lawsuit permitting her to claim retaliation (due to alleged comments by Disney's head of security) and an ADA Title III violation because she alleged "Defendant’s agent asked her for certification papers for the dogs she brought to Disney Springs." The attorney claims there are "irreconcilable differences" with the plaintiff. What makes this a little unusual is that Disney asked the plaintiff's counsel to include a statement (set out below) in the motion to withdraw:

The parties engaged in the exchange of written discovery and had scheduled depositions to be taken before the May 3, 2019 discovery deadline. However, before any depositions occurred and prior to the discovery deadline, the parties negotiated a settlement, had come to an agreement in principle to resolve this matter, and were finalizing a written settlement agreement. It was not until plaintiff’s counsel filed a motion to withdraw on May 22, 2019, that Disney was informed for the first time that plaintiff may attempt to back out of the parties’ agreement, but plaintiff’s counsel has indicated that he is unable to confirm or deny that understanding due to attorney-client privilege. If plaintiff decides to continue with this lawsuit, either pro seor with new counsel, Disney will seek to determine whether the matter will still be resolved along the terms previously agreed upon, but in the event that does not occur and this matter proceeds, Disney will request that this Court modify its scheduling order, including new deadlines for discovery and dispositive motions.​
Reading between the lines, the "irreconcilable differences" are probably related to the plaintiff's decision to back out of the settlement (ethical rules prevent the attorney from saying, however). Disney can still ask the court to find that there was an agreement to settle the lawsuit and hold the plaintiff to that settlement.

Update to the service dog lawsuit in post 24.

The bed bugs lawsuit has also seen a little movement. This is the one transferred from Louisiana to Florida. Florida federal courts strongly encourage mediation so it has ordered the parties to a court conducted mediation scheduled for the beginning of October 2019. I don't expect much more activity from this lawsuit until then.

And in creepy crawly news, there hasn't been any update in the recent lawsuit by the Celebration resident who claims brain injury because a "seasonal nesting bird" hit her on the head while she was on the boat dock at the Polynesian Resort. I mention it here because I found my notes from when the family threatened to sue Disney when a snake fell out of a tree at AK and allegedly cause the death of an elderly family member (so far as I can tell, that lawsuit has never been filed). I'll include some statements from court decisions (citation included for legal nerds) from the court decisions to clarify my prior remarks in the thread:

The law of Florida does not require the owner or possessor of land to anticipate the presence of or to guard an invitee or trespasser against harm from wild animals unless one of two conditions exists: the animal has been reduced to possession, or the animal is not indigenous to the locality but has been introduced onto the premises.​

Palumbo v. State Game & Fresh Water Fish Comm'n, 487 So. 2d 352, 353 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1986). The decision held a Florida city had no duty to prevent alligator attack at a boat dock even though city chose not to prevent alligators from moving from state park to the boat dock area. The city had posted signs warning against swimming and other signs indicated alligators were in the area.

Some decisions have said there is no duty to protect against wild animal attacks without evidence indicate that the land owner had knowledge of an animal “ferae naturae” attack in the alleged area. Hanrahan v. Hometown Am., LLC, 90 So. 3d 915, 918 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2012). The landowner, it seems, must have knowledge that wild animals have attacked people, not just that wild animals are present on the property. For example, in Hanrahan a guest at a mobile home park died after being attacked by fire ants because the undisputed evidence showed "the presence of the fire ants was not caused by any act of appellees to bring them onto the property. Appellees did not harbor, introduce, or reduce the fire ants to possession. Further, appellees regularly attempted, by maintenance staff or exterminators, to treat ant mounds or any other manifestations of fire ants." 90 So. 3d at 918. The court agreed with a Texas court decision (also involving fire ants) which explained that a landowner "could be negligent with regard to wild animals found in artificial structures or places where they are not normally found; that is, stores, hotels, apartment houses, or billboards, if the landowner knows or should know of the unreasonable risk of harm posed by an animal on its premises, and cannot expect patrons to realize the danger or guard against it." Even here, however, at least one Florida decision has dismissed a lawsuit alleging a black widow spider in a hospital (hiding in a hospital gown) bit a guest where there was no evidence the hospital had a black widow infestation. In Florida, it seems, "there are no feasible means to prevent black widow spiders from gaining entry to a hospital." St. Joseph's Hosp. v. Cowart, 891 So. 2d 1039, 1041-42 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2004).

The lady seeking damages from WDW after "a man operating an electric scooter collided with her person, causing her to fall to the ground" seem a tad reluctant to provide Disney with discovery. In March, Disney asked for discovery not only of her damages and injuries but also to describe the incident and all the witnesses to it in detail. Disney then had to file a motion asking the court to require responses before the lady's counsel provided them. A hearing is set for July 9.

Newish lawsuits filed in Orange County Court since mid-April 2019 :
  • a slip and fall on November 24, 2017 where the "sand volleyball court" meets the grass at Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.
  • a rider on a WDW bus is suing after the bus allegedly ran a red light in June 2017 and collided with a Toyota at Buena Vista Drive and Victory Way.
  • a guest claiming food poisoning by the Wave after a February 4, 2017 meal.
  • a guest claiming she injured her leg on March 19, 2017 while boarding a Doom Buggy at the Haunted Mansion "as her leg became trapped by the safety bar of the moving car."
  • a man alleging a "puddle of water" caused him to fall on July 29, 2017, while walking down the Monorail exit at the Magic Kingdom. This complaint includes photos showing it had obviously rained (i.e., more than a "puddle") and the guy's knee looks pretty banged up. The lawsuit alleges Disney shouldn't have let water accumulate and that the walkway was unreasonably dangerous.
  • a lady who, on July 11, 2017, "tipped and fell over a raised bird on the sidewalk" at the Grand Floridian. The brick made the area "unreasonably dangerous."
  • a lady claiming Disney is negligent in turning off the lights at MK during the castle projection show. She says she and her husband were leaving the MK around 9:30 on May 30, 2018, and:
    • As Mrs. Moore entered the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street area the outside lights were turned off by the Defendant and/or an authorized employee(s) of the Defendant in order to show a video on the Magic Kingdom’s Castle. As Mrs. Moore and her Husband were walking down Main Street in order to exit the park it was so dark that they could not see where they were going and they started to bump into other invites/guests of the Defendant. In an attempt to see where they were going, Mrs. Moore' s husband turned on the light on his cell phone. The next thing Mrs. Moore knew she was falling to the ground and had severe pain in her left ankle and her right knee. Mrs. Moore after the fall then realized that she had fallen off a curb. Mrs. Moore’s fall and resulting injuries were due to the Defendant’s negligently causing the darkness and providing no lighting to see the curbs and therefore creating an unsafe condition for Mrs. Moore as she attempted to walk down the Defendant’s Main Street. The Defendant’s negligence in turning off the outside lights caused permanent severe injuries to Mrs. Moore. It was impossible for Mrs. Moore to see the curb until after she fell. When Mrs. Moore fell she twisted her left ankle to the point that it caused the tennis shoe on her left foot to come off. Several other business invites/guests at the park offered to help Mrs. Moore get up from the ground but Mrs. Moore was in such severe pain she told them just to let her sit. After a period of time a park attendant helped Mrs. Moore up so she could get back to where they were staying at the All-Stars Sports Resort. When Mrs. Moore got back to the All-Stars Sports Resort she was given ice packs to put on her left ankle and her right knee. The pain did not get better but got progressively worse and Mrs. Moore had to seek medical help.
Disney routinely denies liability in these slip and fall cases for any number of legal reasons.

That's all (too much, probably) for now.

New update in this post.

Update in post 32 about a lawsuit over ownership of negatives from Disneyland construction and early Disneyland.

General update in post 44.

Duffy sues Disney update in post 59.

Disneyland Space Mountain

Bugs at the Poly concierge.
 
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  • OKW Lover

    Retired and living 2 miles from The Castle.
    DIS Lifetime Sponsor
    Joined
    Apr 29, 2004
    Thanks for these updates Jack! I've got a couple of questions/comments:
    Reading between the lines, the "irreconcilable differences" are probably related to the plaintiff's decision to back out of the settlement (ethical rules prevent the attorney from saying, however). Disney can still ask the court to find that there was an agreement to settle the lawsuit and hold the plaintiff to that settlement.
    I'm sure they can ask. How likely would it be for the Court to agree? Even though there was an agreement in principle, is seems possible that in working out the details the plaintiff found some of the proposed terms to be unacceptable. Perhaps the plaintiff's attorney had indicated agreement in principle, but the plaintiff themselves decided they could do better leading to the irreconcilable differences. Of course we will never know because the discussions are confidential. But that brings me back to the question, would the Court agree?
    I mention it here because I found my notes from when the family threatened to sue Disney when a snake fell out of a tree at AK and allegedly cause the death of an elderly family member
    Presumably this is a different family than the person attacked by the bird? If its the same family, they need to get some wildlife repellent. ;)

    Again, thanks for doing this. I do find them very interesting. Hope to catch up with you and Cathy soon.
     

    jcb

    always emerging from hibernation
    Joined
    Apr 28, 2007
    Thanks for these updates Jack! I've got a couple of questions/comments:
    I'm sure they can ask. How likely would it be for the Court to agree? Even though there was an agreement in principle, is seems possible that in working out the details the plaintiff found some of the proposed terms to be unacceptable. Perhaps the plaintiff's attorney had indicated agreement in principle, but the plaintiff themselves decided they could do better leading to the irreconcilable differences. Of course we will never know because the discussions are confidential. But that brings me back to the question, would the Court agree?
    The court is very likely to enforce a settlement agreement if the evidence shows the plaintiff's counsel agreed to the material terms. That's a big if, of course, and depends on what the parties discussed. Often times, lawyers agree to the basic settlement terms understanding that other expected terms (confidentiality for example) will be included. When you try to enforce a settlement agreement against a no-longer represented party, sometimes you decide you don't need all the fancy settlement clauses as long as you get the case dismissed.

    Settlement discussions are not confidential if one party is attempting to enforce a settlement agreement. Under federal evidence rules, offers of settlement are only inadmissible if offered to prove an aspect of liability. For example, settlement offers can't be used to show the offeror thought it had a weak case. The amount of an offer can't be used to prove the reasonableness of a party's damages. Under these rules, the plaintiff's counsel can be called to testify but the testimony would be whether there was an agreement and maybe whether the attorney had the authority to enter into the agreement. Discussions between counsel and the client would still be off bounds unless the client started asking questions about those discussions.

    I expect Disney is also pretty motivated to enforce the settlement. The parties agreed in principle before Disney deposed the plaintiff. The discovery deadline then lapsed. Then Disney learned plaintiff didn't want to settle. They filed a motion asking to depose her after the deadline which the court denied, for now, essentially telling Disney the pending settlement wasn't good reason to change the deadline (a stupid rule, by the way) but given the plaintiff is currently unrepresented and wants to get new counsel, the court seems likely to postpone the trial.

    Postponing the trial isn't a given. Federal courts in Orlando are busy and tend to hold participants to the deadlines without a pretty good reason.
     

    mar7967

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Mar 26, 2015
    Thanks for putting this together! Any updates on that cast member who was stealing and selling haunted mansion costumes?
     

    jcb

    always emerging from hibernation
    Joined
    Apr 28, 2007
    Thanks for putting this together! Any updates on that cast member who was stealing and selling haunted mansion costumes?
    Not much. Spikes is charged with three offenses: burglary, fencing and grand theft third degree. Like many states, Florida bases theft offenses on the property value allegedly stolen. The value here is more than 5k but less than 10k. He is out on bail ($5,300). Last week, Disney appears to have submitted an eight-page victim impact statement to the court but it is protected by statute and not available online. No hearing has been set.
     
  • AggieDizzer

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Mar 22, 2019
    As I read through your updates I cannot help but think nearly every one of them are nonsense. So we are holding Disney responsible because someone bumped into you with a scooter? (Which happened to me about a dozen times when I was in the parks last week BTW - many scooter users seem to have very little regard for other guests!) Slipped in a puddle of water? Tripped over a brick? Tripped because the lights were low during HEA? :( :(

    I do hear about a number of these reported in the media and on the Dis podcast, and it is good to know that many are quickly dismissed. I am certain that a number of these claims are filed in the hopes that Disney will just write them a check so they will go away, with no expectation that they'll ever get to court. Good for Disney for standing up to these frivolous claims.
     

    jcb

    always emerging from hibernation
    Joined
    Apr 28, 2007
    Most of the time I defend people sued so it is an occupational hazard for me to be skeptical about any claim in any lawsuit. Many lawyers who draft complaints have a bad habit of grossly overstating injuries or circumstances. The bad habit applies to many litigators, including some who defend lawsuits.

    Still, I always try to remember that there is a real person on the other side and that that person (usually, though not always) sustained real injuries. The photos of the guy who fell leaving the monorail show he badly banged up his knee (either that or he has a bad deformity, see, my skepticism is on display even here). I've fallen at WDW (DHS) before because the pavement was slick from a fresh rain. It was at the old TSM entrance and I was crossing over a chain because the TSM wait was too long. A cast member supervisor was right there asking if I was ok. Fortunately, I was more embarrassed than anything else. Falls happen.

    That said, the HEA lawsuit strikes me as exceptionally short-sighted. I'm pretty sure WDW warns about the low lighting before HEA (I know it does for illuminations) and the lawsuit plainly contends lowering the lighting alone amounts to negligence. That's asking a court to force WDW to keep the lighting up for HEA, Illuminations, etc. What's next? Demanding WDW install road-side construction spotlights to light the night in Pandora? And why weren't the Moores walking along the store side of the sidewalk where CM's usually tell guests to walk? I have questions. I may never get answers.

    So, I don't doubt the injuries occurred (for the most part) but I wonder why folks are so quick to try to blame someone else for what seems like their own-caused misfortune. Have they no sense of shame?
     

    ELLH

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jul 30, 2011
    Still, I always try to remember that there is a real person on the other side and that that person (usually, though not always) sustained real injuries. The photos of the guy who fell leaving the monorail show he badly banged up his knee (either that or he has a bad deformity, see, my skepticism is on display even here).
    Some of these cases make sense to me from the simple standpoint of: "hey, I think it wasn't necessarily my 'fault' that this happened to me, Disney has insurance, so I'm going to sue to at least get them to cover my costs". I don't necessarily agree with that train of thought but I can't necessarily fault them for at least trying to not have to come out of pocket. Unfortunately, the majority of the cases you listed are far reaches.
     

    jcb

    always emerging from hibernation
    Joined
    Apr 28, 2007
    the majority of the cases you listed are far reaches.
    Without meaning to disagree in substance, I'll clarify that I did not pick and chose among the newly filed lawsuits. The only arbitrary selection on my part was the cut-off date. The newly filed lawsuits were all the ones recently (since mid-April or so) filed in Orange County Court: https://myeclerk.myorangeclerk.com/Cases/Search as best as I could determine. By that I mean that the search function on the website is quite good but not perfect. I search for all lawsuits involving the business named "Walt Disney" (because the entity operating the theme parks is "WALT DISNEY PARKS AND RESORTS US INC."

    That usually brings up them but sometimes not. For some reason, the bird strike lawsuit did not show up in the search for lawsuits against businesses whose name starts with Walt Disney. It does now, however. I think there is some delay in posting new lawsuits.
     
  • jcb

    always emerging from hibernation
    Joined
    Apr 28, 2007
    And we have our first Galaxy's Edge related lawsuit at WDW. Seems a six year old boy broke his arm while at DHS one June 2018 night by tripping over the lighting for the "mural of the Millennium Falcon."
     

    OKW Lover

    Retired and living 2 miles from The Castle.
    DIS Lifetime Sponsor
    Joined
    Apr 29, 2004
    Jack, do you also search for Reedy Creek? I just tried it and it seems that almost all the results for them concern tax cases, but occasionally there is something different.
     

    jcb

    always emerging from hibernation
    Joined
    Apr 28, 2007
    Jack, do you also search for Reedy Creek? I just tried it and it seems that almost all the results for them concern tax cases, but occasionally there is something different.
    I don't really try to follow Reedy Creek. The personal injury litigation against them is pretty sporadic and they are unlikely to attract the kind of class actions worth mentioning. As a public entity, they are not subject to the National Labor Relations Act so the real interesting stuff is done out of public sight. The other lawsuit was a retaliatory discharge complaint by RC's former HR Manager. HRM's know where all the bodies are buried so that might prove entertaining.
     

    Euby

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 26, 2014
    @jcb - Thanks for creating this post! I'm always curious of what the general outcome is for cases that are brought up in the news. This thread is now on my watch list.
     

    jcb

    always emerging from hibernation
    Joined
    Apr 28, 2007
    Thanks. My goal is to start a new thread once a month. Litigation tends to happen (if at all) in 30 day increments just because that is the typical due date for responses. If something interesting happens in the interim, I plan on adding it to the current thread.
     

    mar7967

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Mar 26, 2015
    Thanks. My goal is to start a new thread once a month. Litigation tends to happen (if at all) in 30 day increments just because that is the typical due date for responses. If something interesting happens in the interim, I plan on adding it to the current thread.
    Could I suggest an ongoing thread (like the rumors tracking thread) that you update monthly instead of new posts? Easier to follow along that way.
     


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