In a place with so many people and so many moving parts, injuries at theme parks are certainly not uncommon. Sometimes, however, those injuries can become quite serious. Disneyland has been sued multiple times over the years due to injuries allegedly sustained on attractions but a new lawsuit filed in Southern California is something quite tragic as the park is being sued for wrongful death after a woman’s alleged injury on the Jungle Cruise led to fatal consequences.
The Orange County Register reports that a lawsuit has been filed against The Walt Disney Company, specifically against Disneyland, by the family of a woman named Joanne Aguilar. According to the suit, the then 66-year-old woman was visiting the park with her two adult daughters when they attempted to go on the park’s Jungle Cruise attraction. The elder Aguilar was in a wheelchair, but the family was told that a wheelchair-accessible boat was unavailable.
Aguilar instead got on a standard boat, and entered and exited with the help of her daughters. The suit claims unsecured blocks were placed on the steps leading into the boat to reduce the distance between steps. The woman was apparently able to enter the boat but had more difficulty trying to exit. She lost her balance and fell backward, fracturing her femur.
Aguilar underwent surgery and was then transferred to a rehab facility where she spent five months. While there she got an infection and went into septic shock. The woman passed away from septic shock in January of last year. It's alleged the septic shock was a result of the surgery, which was due to the attraction injury. The family is suing for wrongful death as well as violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Disney has responded to the suit by denying all allegations and claiming the woman’s injuries were caused by her own conduct and negligence.
Most if not all Disneyland attractions have mechanisms for dealing with guests in wheelchairs. Rides like Jungle Cruise and It’s a Small World have boats that give those guests the ability to roll into the boat and remain in the chair throughout the attraction. It appears that on this date the Jungle Cruise boat with that option was unavailable, it could have been out of service for any number of reasons.
However, the most disturbing part of the lawsuit may be the claim that during the time just before the fall, it is claimed that Disneyland cast members were laughing at the woman’s obvious struggles to exit the boat. Certainly, not the sort of behavior one is used to seeing from Cast Members.
The lawsuit has been assigned to a judge in Orange County and Disney has made it clear they plan to seek a jury trial.