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Old 03-25-2009, 11:17 AM   #1
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WDW Segway Lawsuit - 6/10/09 Update (post 74) - wdwinfo.com cited in lawsuit

I have been following the WDW Segway lawsuit with some interest. I thought it might help to explain why the government has objected to the proposed settlement.

At the start, I should say I'm not trying to go into technical legal issues here so you other lawyers out there don't start picking at me for omitting what you think might be relevant details. I'll admit I probably have for the sake of simplicity. Also, I have no professional relationship to the lawsuit.

I have a copy of the government's initial objections (they are to file their final ones today, though I doubt this will be much different than what it has already said). Anyone who wants to read these in full can pm me their e-mail address and I will gladly email you a copy.

The government's objections to the proposed settlement have a lot to do with technical issues relating to class action settlements. Here, the government feels this settlement disproportionately benefits the people who sued without benefiting the non-party class members (those whose name is not on the lawsuit but who would nevertheless be bound by the settlement) as well as how the settlement might muck up other, current and future, lawsuits or pending regulatory actions.

Take the last point first, none of the people suing say they have or want to go to Disneyland but the settlement would include Disneyland. That's a big problem, legally; it was essentially the reason why the Segway lawsuit was initially dismissed. Also, there is a pending a Segway lawsuit against Disneyland and the settlement, if it covers Disneyland, could affect that lawsuit.

More importantly (to the government), the government has, since at least June 2008, been studying whether and under what conditions (including safety concerns) must Segways (and any other "electronic personal assistive moibility devices") be allowed in theme parks (as well as other businesses). As to Segways in theme parks, you can see the issues the government is studying here (page 33, particularly "example 1"). Essentially, the Government is trying to find a way to balance the benefit of permitting Segway use against the safety and other challenges that use poses in public places. It is concerned that the WDW settlement (which would also include DL), would undercut whatever it decides to do in these regulations.

The other objections (to try to cut to the chase) are that the lawsuit benefits the people who sued but not any other members of the class. The people who sued get something of value ($4,000, free use of a Disney owned four wheel "electronic standup vehicle" and of course, some attorney fees) but other members of the class only get the "opportunity" (government's quotes) to rent WDW's "ESV" at, currently, $45 a day. The problem with this, the government says, is that this "opportunity" is an "illegal surcharge in violation of the ADA" because businesses cannot require disabled individuals to pay a fee to get an accommodation.

These are not the Government's only objections but this post already too much resembles a blog post as it is.

When the government takes the unusual step of objecting to a private settlement (and it is unusual for it to do so), it is more likely to direct its resources at highly visible targets because it knows that is more likely to generate publicity than in a lawsuit against a local shopping mall. It worked here, after all.

Don't take any of this as saying I agree or disagree with the government's position or that I disagree that WDW has a strong track record of accommodating individuals with disabilities. For what it is worth, were I calling the shots for WDW (and again, I am not) I would be inclined to ask that both Segway lawsuits be put on hold until the government finalizes the regulations that would govern whether and how theme parks (and other places) must permit the use of Segways.

Last edited by jcb; 06-10-2009 at 11:55 PM. Reason: 6/10/09 update
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