Disneyland Accused of Negligence and Insensitivity in Death of Disabled Woman

A lawsuit has been filed against the Walt Disney Company, its theme park division and Disneyland by the family of a disabled woman,, who died from an infection five months after breaking her leg due to a fall at the Jungle Cruise ride. The lawsuit claims that Disneyland employees were negligent in their assistance of the woman, Joanne Aguilar, and snickered and giggled as they watched her struggle before she lost her balance, fell backward, and fractured the femur in her right leg.

According to the lawsuit, Aguilar went to Disneyland on Aug. 22, 2021, with her adult daughters Andrea Mallul and Zenobia Hernandez. The family had obtained a wheelchair from the park for Aguilar, who was recovering from a knee injury at the time. Disneyland employees at the Jungle Cruise ride allegedly told the family that a wheelchair-accessible boat was unavailable, and Aguilar opted to board with the assistance of her daughters.

At the end of the ride, employees “placed small unsecured blocks on top of the existing steps inside the boat to reduce the height of each step”, but Aguilar had a difficult time going up them. Her daughters attempted to help Aguilar get out of the boat, however, according to the lawsuit, Cast Members working the ride did not assist but snickered and giggled as they watched Aguilar struggle before she lost her balance on the blocks, fell backward and fractured the femur in her right leg. This left her feeling ashamed and embarrassed. Aguilar “felt dehumanized” by the situation, the lawsuit alleges. Aguilar had surgery at a local hospital where she spent 10 days before moving to a rehabilitation center.

Aguilar then spent five months at the rehabilitation center, got an infection, went into septic shock, and died on Jan. 29, 2022. The family of Joanne Aguilar filed the wrongful death suit in Ventura County, California, and it was assigned to a judge earlier this month. The lawsuit names as defendants the Walt Disney Company, its theme park division and Disneyland.

The lawsuit claims wrongful death and violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It seeks monetary damages for pain, mental suffering, humiliation, medical costs, and funeral expenses. The Jungle Cruise ride has an ADA-accessible boat that allows disabled parkgoers to board without getting out of their wheelchairs, but Aguilar decided to ride a standard boat with the help of her daughters.

The case was assigned this month to U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney at the Santa Ana courthouse. In court filings, Disney has denied all the allegations, claiming that the company was not at fault for Aguilar’s injuries and that the woman and her daughters knew the risks of coming to the theme park. The company requested for the lawsuit to be dismissed.

Image: Disney

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