Baughman v. Walt Disney World Co.

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Disability Law
  • Date Filed: 07-18-2012
  • Case #: 10-55792
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Chief Judge Alex Kozinski for the Court; Circuit Judges Reinhardt and W. Fletcher
  • Full Text Opinion

Without proof that Segways cannot be operated safely within its theme parks, Disney might be required under the ADA to allow disabled persons to use Segways.

Tina Baughman, a disabled woman who wished to use a Segway during a visit to Disneyland, brought suit against Disney under the American with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) after Disney prohibited her use of a Segway in its theme park. The lower court granted summary judgment in favor of Disney, because Baughman was judicially estopped from claiming that she was unable to use a motorized wheelchair. In previous lawsuits, Baughman claimed she had to rely on the use of a motorized wheelchair or power scooter. In this suit, she claimed that she could not use either and that it was necessary for her to use a Segway instead. The Court found that Baughman was estopped from claiming that she was unable to use a motorized wheelchair or power scooter. However, the Court addressed the case as though Baughman would be able to use a wheelchair and found that the use of a Segway might constitute a reasonable request. Disney argued that the term “necessary” in U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(ii) of the ADA only applies when a disabled individual “can’t do without.” The Court disagreed, interpreting § 12182(a) and the term “necessary” to mean that the accommodations are necessary to provide “full and equal enjoyment” to the disabled party. Advances in technology have led to changes in the application of the ADA, such as providing accommodations for motorized wheelchairs as opposed to manual varieties. Unless Disney can prove, rather than simply speculate, that actual risks will accompany allowing disabled individuals to use Segways in its theme parks, it may be reasonable to require Disney to alter its policy. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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