The Kiss Goodnight for Segways at Disneyland?

| October 23, 2012

The end may be near for the last “Segways at Disney” lawsuit.  But not quite yet.

My last post about the Segway lawsuit(s) discussed the court of appeals decision that sent the Disneyland Segway lawsuit back to the lower court so that Disney would have the opportunity to prove Segways could not be safely operated in Disneyland or California Adventure.  A month and a half later, a different court of appeals (which hears appeals from Florida federal courts) ruled in favor of Disney by upholding a class action settlement of all Segway lawsuits against Disney.  Among other things, the court upheld the settlement because the court found Disney was likely to be able to prove that it was not safe to permit Segways at Walt Disney World or Disneyland Resort.  A thread on the DisUnplugged Podcast forum discussed the impact of the decision that upheld the Segway settlement.

Because the terms of the Segway settlement permit Disney to ban Segways at both resorts, the question I posed (in the thread) was how would the settlement affect the lawsuit by the lady, Tina Baughman, who wanted to use her Segway at Disneyland.

I wasn’t surprised that, not long after the court upheld the Segway settlement, Disney asked the court to dismiss the Disneyland Segway lawsuit.  Disney argued Ms. Baughman, as a member of the settlement class, was bound by the settlement.  Of course, Ms. Baughman argued against dismissal.  Among other things, she asserted that the decision upholding the Segway settlement was not yet “final” because there was still time to ask the United States Supreme Court to review the court decision which upheld the Segway settlement.  Ms. Baughman also wanted the court to immediately rule in her favor so that she could use her Segway at Disneyland at least once before the settlement became effective.

The Judge mostly sided with Disney.  While the court refused to dismiss Baughman’s lawsuit outright, the court “stayed” the lawsuit pending any further review by the Supreme Court.  At the same time, the court sent a clear message that unless the Supreme Court overturned the settlement, Ms. Baughman’s lawsuit would likely be dismissed.

It would be a tremendous waste of judicial resources and create a hardship for Disney if the case proceeds and subsequently the Agreement goes into effect. As previously discussed, Ms. Baughman’s claims are barred by the Agreement. If the Agreement becomes effective, the Court will likely dismiss this case, and all of the effort and resources that will be expended going forward will have been for naught. It simply makes more sense to stay this case pending the final resolution of the class action, rather than expend considerable resources litigating claims that are likely to be dismissed in the near future.

* * *

The class action is an efficient and fair method for resolving the claims of similarly situated plaintiffs, and Ms. Baughman’s concerns were adequately addressed by the Florida district court and Eleventh Circuit. If the Agreement ultimately goes into effect, it is just and fair that she be bound by its terms.

The groups opposing the Segway settlement have until the end of November to petition for review in the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court does not grant all petitions for review (the technical term is a petition for certiorari).  In fact, the Court accepts only a small fraction of petitions.  According to the Court’s website, it receives over 10,000 petitions, but it agrees to review only around 100 cases each year.

United States Supreme Court (with scrim).

The parties opposing the settlement do have, in their favor, the fact that the Justice Department opposed the settlement.  If the Justice Department supported the petition, their odds of obtaining Supreme Court review might improve somewhat. It isn’t clear, however, that the Justice Department will support Supreme Court review.  At the Supreme Court level, the Government’s lawyers are keenly aware of the difference between believing that a court decision is wrong and believing that the decision is worth the Supreme Court’s time.  From a tactical and legal standpoint, it seems to me, the Government has more reasons to remain neutral than it has to support the petition.

One other point.  If the district court were to dismiss the lawsuit, Ms. Baughman would then be able to appeal that dismissal to the same court of appeals that ruled against Disney in July.  So it isn’t over yet, but the music is playing and the lights on Cinderella’s Castle are flickering.

(Photos courtesy of Kathy Werling, Wayne Toigo, Catherine Burgin, respectively)


Category: Disney World

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