A disabled California man who spent more than half an hour trapped in Disneyland’s “It’s a Small World” ride
in 2009 as the monotonous song played on and on has won $8,000 in damages from the amusement park, the man’s lawyer told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Jose Martinez, a resident of Los Angeles County who is in his early 50s, was stuck in the “Goodbye Room” when the ride broke down the day after Thanksgiving in 2009, said David Geffen, a Santa Ana attorney.
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Disneyland employees were able to evacuate all the other riders, but they could not get Martinez out, who is paralyzed and uses a wheelchair, Geffen said.
Martinez, who suffers from panic attacks and high blood pressure, had a traumatizing time as he sat in the boat with the high-pitched "It's a Small World" song blasting as employees failed to turn it off, his lawyer said. His boat was half in and half out of the cave, on the cusp of exiting the area.
Rather than call firefighters to evacuate Martinez which could have been faster, employees waited for the ride to be fixed, Geffen said.
"Disney was alerted about his panic problem and didn't call for the fire department right away," Geffen said.
Martinez was eventually treated at a Disneyland first aid station but did not medically stabilize for three hours following the incident.
Additionally, U.S. District Judge James Selna argued that Disneyland has a responsibility to warn disabled visitors
that they could be trapped for an extended period of time when rides break down.
"I find a breach of the common-law duty to provide safe premises," the judge said, CBS reported.
The judge awarded the man $4,000 for "pain and suffering" and another $4,000 for a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Disneyland spokeswoman Suzi Brown told NBC Southern California
that the theme park believes it provided appropriate assistance during the incident and is disappointed that the court did not fully agree.
Geffen said the case is important for all Disneyland visitors.
“This is a really important ruling not just for (Martinez), but for anyone that rides the rides at Disneyland — because they do break down often and they do not tell people,” Geffen told the San Francisco Chronicle. “The court’s saying that this kind of injury is foreseeable and that (Disneyland) has a duty to warn people.”
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