Nearly two years ago, Jarvis Pouncy and his autistic nephew fell while exiting a Space Mountain railcar.
Citing a policy preventing theme park employees from handling the boy, Pouncy and the child’s mother, Martesha Richardson, filed suit against Walt Disney Parks and Resorts on May 18 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern Texas, Marshall Division.
According to the lawsuit, on June 21, 2013, Pouncy, a Dallas County resident, and his family were vacationing in California with the express of intent of letting his nephew, identified as DB, visit the “world-famous Disneyland.”
DB suffers from severe autism and is non-verbal. Disneyland issued him a “guest assistance card,” designating his special needs to all park employees.
While attempting to ride Space Mountain, the railcar restraints malfunctioned and would not snap into place. The staff diverted the train of cars to another track so passengers could exit.
“This track did not have a platform that allowed park patrons to step into and out of the train cars,” the suit states. “Instead, a step ladder was brought to the side of the cars, and park patrons were asked to climb down to the surface several feet below the train. This section of track was poorly lit and it was very difficult to see anything.”
Because of his disabilities, DB could not climb down on his own. Pouncy asked the park staff for help, but was told Disneyland policy prevented them from touching DB.
“Without other options, Pouncy was forced to attempt to carry DB down the ladder himself,” the suit states. “At the bottom of the ladder was an uneven surface. When Pouncy stepped from the ladder to the uneven surface below, he lost his footing and fell, injuring both himself and DB.”
The suit faults Disney with several acts of alleged negligence, including:
- Creating a dangerous situation by moving a train full of people into a dark area that required use of a ladder;
- Refusing to help people disembark the train, even after learning one of those people had a disability;
- Failing to warn patrons of the uneven surface and failing to remedy the dangerous condition; and
- Failing to train employees to handle special needs individuals, especially since children of all ages and abilities frequent the park.
The suit also accuses Disney of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Contending Disney acted with gross negligence, the plaintiffs seek an award of exemplary damages, in addition to court costs and attorney’s fees.
Attorney Benton Ross of The Monsour Law Firm in Longview represents them.
Case No. 2:15-cv-00790