Settlement Approved in Walt Disney World Segway Lawsuit

| April 4, 2011

A federal judge in Orlando has approved Walt Disney World’s efforts to settle the long-running lawsuit brought by individuals who sued for the unrestricted right to use Segways during regular hours in Disney’s theme parks.  The effect of the ruling is to put to rest (absent an appeal) a lawsuit filed in November 2007.

Exhibit Filed by Disney in Segway Lawsuit Showing Crowded Theme Park

Photo of Magic Kingdom filed by Disney in Segway Lawsuit

In a prior blog post, I explained about the Department of Justice’s opposition to the settlement.  The Justice Department’s position was  that the settlement is unfair to the class members because the revised ADA regulations “expressly provides legal recognition of, and protection for, use of Segways [at theme parks] subject to legitimate safety considerations.”

Today, United States District Court Judge Gregory A. Presnell disagreed.  First, Judge Presnell sided with Walt Disney World’s position that the Justice Department’s new (effective March 15, 2011) regulations construing the Americans with Disabilities Act (as the regulations to Segways, at least) were invalid.  The court explained: “the DOJ’s revised regulations conflict with the plain language of Title III, which requires that a requested modification be necessary for a disabled individual to be afforded goods or services.”  That is a significant win for Walt Disney World.

The Justice Department also had argued that Walt Disney World could not adhere to a “blanket ban on Segways at all Disney properties” because Disney’s safety concerns were “bland and unsupported.”  Judge Presnell disagreed, saying: “Disney would likely be able to maintain its ban on Segways in light of its legitimate safety concerns. Specifically, the evidence at the fairness hearing supports Disney’s position that unrestricted Segway use poses significant safety risks because Segways cannot be operated in accordance with Disney’s legitimate safety requirements.”  In a footnote, the court relied upon testimony by Disney’s Chief Safety Officer, who “testified in detail about his thorough review and assessment of whether the Segway could be used by guests at Disney’s theme parks and his conclusion that the safety risks posed to other guests in the unique environment of the parks were simply too great.”

Judge Presnell’s rejection of the Department of Justice’s objections permitted him to find that Walt Disney World was likely to prevail on the merits of the Segway lawsuit.  This paved the way for the ultimate conclusion that the class settlement was fair.  The ruling permits Walt Disney Parks and Resorts (which operates Walt Disney World and Disneyland) to continue the blanket ban on unrestricted Segway use in the theme parks.  Disney will also be free to require guests wanting to use standing mobility aids to rent the electrically powered vehicle (photo in prior blog post) developed by Disney.

It is unclear what effect this ruling will have on the separate litigation challenging a ban on Segways at Disneyland.  An appeal is pending and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts is not scheduled to file its brief until mid-May.

Here is a link to a copy of the court’s ruling, approving the class action settlement of the Segway lawsuit against Walt Disney World (obtained from the court’s website).


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  • eliza61

    This is the first I heard about this lawsuit so some one correct me if I am misunderstanding.

    Am I to believe that some one is suing disney for the right to use segways ALL day at wdw parks? Really? As a general rule, my kids are not allowed to call some one “stupid” buuuttt…..

    I am never surpised.

  • bgrh

    Actually, it’s about disabled folks whose preferred mobility device is a Segway asking for the right to use a Segway to get around Disney.

    Disney’s now approved alternative is to take people off of their Segway, which they know how to use, and put them on a “stand up scooter”, which as presented, was a typical electric scooter that had the seat removed and the handle bar extended, and let them loose in Disney on that, a device they don’t know how to use… Somehow the safety director has convinced himself that this is a good idea. I’m terrified.

    The basic fear seems to be that since a Segway can go 12.5 mph, it will always go 12.5 mph, even when standing in line… I can run that fast, at least for a few yards – should I be banned from Disney? And those guys who win the Super Bowl – they are clearly dangerous – BIG and FAST…

    Final point, when you are crossing the street at a light, being able to go fast isn’t a hazard, it’s a feature. You ever had to hustle to get out of some speeding jerk’s way?

  • daneenm

    I for one am happy to see this ruling. Having been around folks on Segways quite a bit at my workplace, I do not believe people have any business using them in Disney Parks, or any crowded venue for that matter.

  • trivial

    I don’t believe Disney should be legally required to accommodate such demands. If Disney wanted to allow licensed Segway drivers to drive Segways, I’d probably be alright with that — but it should be their decision to make.

  • swissdog

    On the one hand i guess you can make the arguement that this class of user would fall into the ‘experienced’ category. That they are capable of controlling the device, and more importantly, themselves in making use of it in the parks. However, stemming from my general mistrust of human nature it is all to apparent that there will be those times, all to frequent, i’d imagine, when the device will be used to the advantage of the rider by forcing their way through crowds, zipping along to get somewhere sooner and so on. And please don’t tell me ‘oh, we would never do that’. It only takes one out of too numerous to count to mow down a child or elderly person to make the whole thing a train wreck. Just because this is the device of ‘preference’ doesn’t mean it’s the one you get to use. With forty million plus visitors a year WDW is responsible for all of us, not just the ones who shout the loudest.

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  • CR ESQ

    Here comes a long series of appeals and Kerry Scanlan and company know it. If you read the judges words ” device of preference” that opens Disney to have the ability to ban any scooter claiming it’s “preference” not necessity .

    It will be interesting how the DOJ feels about being cast aside. Disney will eventually have to fight this case outside of Florida, where they are beyond reproach, and the playing field may level .

    After over 40 years as a Civil Rights Attorney there is no question that this will be litigated for a long time to come.

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