Monday, June 24, 2024

Disneyland cast members laughed before disabled woman was injured on ride, lawsuit alleges

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Disneyland employees laughed and snickered at a disabled woman trying to climb out of a ride moments before she fell back and broke her leg, a lawsuit against the park alleges.

The federal lawsuit alleges 66-year-old Joanne Aguilar had to spend days in a hospital and then weeks at a rehabilitation clinic after her injury on Aug. 22, 2021. Ultimately, the Ventura County woman contracted an infection and died from septic shock, but the lawsuit alleges it was her initial injury at the Anaheim theme park that led to her death.

The lawsuit is asking for Disneyland to pay for “all past economic damages,” including medical costs, burial and funeral expenses, attorney fees, and any other incidental damages.

In court filings, Disneyland has denied the claims and asked for the suit to be dismissed.

According to the lawsuit, filed by Aguilar’s two daughters, Andrea Maullul and Zenobia Hernandez, Aguilar and her family visited the park on Aug. 22, 2021. There, she and the family were given a wheelchair from the park’s Disability Access Service because Aguilar had a knee injury.

When the family went on the Jungle Cruise ride, however, the suit alleges they were told the attraction’s wheelchair accessible boats, which use an electronic lift and ramp to load visitors in wheelchairs, were not available.

Still, Disneyland cast members told the family they could use one of the other boats, according to the lawsuit.

Aguilar was able to board the boat with the help of her two daughters, but had trouble disembarking at the end of the ride, the lawsuit alleges.

Aguilar had to lift herself up from the boats on steps, according to the suit. Cast members had placed small blocks on top of the steps to reduce the height of each one, but the suit alleges Aguilar still struggled to lift herself up with the help of her two daughters.

The family alleges in the lawsuit that employees stood around watching and at one point, “began [snickering] and giggling as they watched [Aguilar] try to safely exit the boat.”

“[Aguilar] began to feel the shame and embarrassment of the situation and felt dehumanized,” the suit reads.

Aguilar then lost her balance and fell backward, causing a compound fracture in her right leg.

She was hospitalized at Anaheim Global Medical Center for 10 days, and then transferred to a rehabilitation center.

The lawsuit alleges Aguilar contracted an infection during her recovery, leading to septic shock and her death on Jan. 29, 2022.

“From the time [Aguilar] left Disneyland in an ambulance on Aug. 22, 2021 she was never able to return home,” the suit alleges.

In their response in court, attorneys representing Disneyland have asked that the lawsuit be dismissed. They also say in court records that any injuries Aguilar suffered were caused by other people or entities, not Disneyland.

Disneyland attorneys also alleged any injuries Aguilar suffered were “caused or contributed” by her or her daughters, and that the family was aware of any additional risks they were taking in the park.

The suit was assigned on Jan. 5 to U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney in Santa Ana.

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