THE BLOG

Absurd Handicapping: 1000s Paid to "Casualty" of "It's a Small World" Disney Ride

04/01/2013 02:52 pm ET | Updated Jun 01, 2013

Recently, a Federal court ordered thousands of dollars paid to a man who sued after being stuck for a half an hour on the "It's a Small World" ride at Disneyland in 2009.

In terms of one of the most absurd lawsuits on record, you can now forget the one where a lady spilled McDonald's coffee on her lap and was granted almost $3 million in punitive damages because the coffee was too hot. This one beats it.

The Plaintiff, Jose Martinez was awarded $8,000 after having the "traumatic" experience of being stuck for 30-40 minutes in his boat and having to endure listening to "It's a small world," one of the world's most wonderful songs, over and over and over and over again.

While other riders were able to get out of their boats, Martinez couldn't because he was paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. Apparently, Martinez also suffers from chronic problems with diabetes, hypertension, and anxiety disorder.

According to Martinez, in addition to his inability to get out of the boat, because Disney employees couldn't shut the blaring music off and no one came to get him, he suffered a medical episode that took him 3 hours to recover from it.

He also claimed that he had to go to the bathroom to pee and had to hold it in, causing him even more pain and suffering.

The court found that because of those disabilities, Disney was remiss in not getting him out and to a first aid station fast enough-and that was a violation of Martinez's rights under the American Disabilities Act (ADA).

Martinez's attorney argued that Disney should have called the fire department for assistance to rescue his client-and said that they had a proactive duty to warn all disabled patrons that they could possibly get stuck on their rides.

The award of any money to anyone, disabled or not, who had to "endure" a half an hour of "It's A Small World" is just absurd, and illustrates how non sensible, no, just plain stupid, the enforcement of the ADA has become in American society.

Section 2 of the American Disabilities Act defines the law's purpose in part "to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

That means, or should mean that people with disabilities must not be deprived any amenity that all other Americans often take for granted, like riding on amusement rides in places like Disney World.

But in this case, Martinez, even with his inability to walk and his anxiety, was just simply inconvenienced, not discriminated against.

In terms of ADA, there was no actual denial of any true rights that day.

Since when does enduring some loud music and having to hold your pee in for a while in an amusement park rise to the level of discrimination, not to mention pain and suffering?

All Martinez was forced to do was just to sit there for a half an hour with his wife in his boat, watching audio-animatronic characters dressed in all kinds of outfits from all over the world, dancing to and singing one of the most wonderful songs ever written by someone other than Irving Berlin:

it's a world of laughter, a world of tears
it's a world of hopes, it's a world of fear
there's so much that we share
that its time we're aware
its a small world after all

No matter what ADA accommodation, going to a Disney theme park or any other one can, and always will be not just a world of laughter, but once in a while a world of tears too, no matter what, handicapped or not.

Its common sense to know that if you go to an amusement park, the ride may break down. Whether handicapped or not, a patron walking through the entrance gate takes an assumption of risk that he or she may be inconvenienced by a mishap or a breakdown there.

It's just like buying a cup of coffee at McDonalds. You know it's hot and it's going to hurt you if you drop it on your lap.

The stupid, Mickey Mouse lawsuits and judgments that allow ordinary mishaps or events to become acts of victimization need to stop. This case's resolution sends the wrong message, making a mockery of the courts and the true meaning and intent of laws like the ADA.

Steven Kurlander is an attorney and communication strategist in Monticello, New York. He blogs at Kurly's Kommentary and The Florida Squeeze and can be emailed at kurly@stevenkurlander.com

YOU MAY LIKE