A lawsuit alleges that Disneyland Cast Members laughed at a disabled woman struggling to get out of a Jungle Cruise boat, just before she suffered a fall that ultimately led to her death, Orange County Register reports.
Joanne Aguilar, a 66-year-old Ventura County woman, fell while getting out of a Jungle Cruise boat at Disneyland. She died five months later due to complications from her injuries, the lawsuit alleges.
Aguilar’s family filed a lawsuit against Disneyland on November 18 for wrongful death and violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The lawsuit was assigned to United States District Judge Cormac Carney at the Ronald Reagan Federal Building and United States Courthouse in Santa Ana on January 5.
Disney denied all the allegations and is seeking a jury trial.
According to the lawsuit, Aguilar visited Disneyland on August 22, 2021, with her two adult daughters. At Jungle Cruise, Cast Members reportedly told Aguilar that there was not a wheelchair-accessible boat available.
Jungle Cruise has one accessible boat that allows a guest to roll their wheelchair from the dock directly onto the boat, and remain seated in their wheelchair throughout the attraction. Guests with wheelchairs can usually wait for the accessible boat to arrive at the dock, but it’s possible it was out of commission that day for some reason.
Aguilar decided to ride a regular Jungle Cruise boat with the help of her daughters. When the boat returned, Cast Members “placed small unsecured blocks on top of the existing steps inside the boat to reduce the height of each step.” Aguilar’s daughters helped her out of the boat but Cast Members did not assist, instead laughing at Aguilar.
“Exiting the boat was more difficult as it required her to propel her body upward with her lower legs, which due to her disability was not possible,” the lawsuit states. “The struggle was apparent and Disney cast members began snickered [sic] and giggling as they watched Ms. Aguilar try to safely exit the boat.”
Aguilar lost her balance, fell backward, and fractured the femur in her right leg. She was transported by ambulance to an Anaheim hospital, underwent surgery, and remained there for 10 days. She was then moved to an Oxnard rehabilitation center, where she stayed for five months. On January 29, 2022, she died after getting an infection and going into septic shock.
“My clients went to Disneyland with the hopes of creating life-long happy memories and instead are left with the memory of a lack of dignity and respect for their mother which ultimately led to her final demise,” family attorney Michael Jeandron told Southern California News Group. “Two daughters are heartbroken, healing and seeking accountability for Disney cast members who laughed at their struggling mother instead of helping her.”
According to Dan Cupido, a retired chief deputy coroner in Riverside County, a fall injury would not directly cause a person to develop septic shock, but people recovering from surgeries are particularly susceptible to it.
Disney’s response on December 29 stated that Aguilar’s injuries were caused by her own negligence and that Disneyland did not discriminate against her or deny her equal access.
The lawsuit seeks monetary judgment for physical pain, mental suffering, humiliation, medical costs, and funeral expenses.