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Case Name Shields v. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts US DR-CA-0037
Docket / Court 2:10-cv-05810-DMG-FMO ( C.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Case Summary
On May 21, 2010, two annual pass holders at Disneyland in Anaheim, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of California for the County of Los Angeles, against Walt Disney Parks and Resorts US, Inc., and related companies (Disney), under Title ... read more >
On May 21, 2010, two annual pass holders at Disneyland in Anaheim, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of California for the County of Los Angeles, against Walt Disney Parks and Resorts US, Inc., and related companies (Disney), under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §12131, et seq. (ADA), the Unruh Civil Rights Act, California Civil Code §51, et seq., and the California Disabled Persons Act, California Civil Code §54 et seq. (CDPA). The initial complaint identified eight separate classes of blind and visually impaired plaintiffs it alleged that Disney had discriminated against in distinct ways, including: the Disney Character Class, who were patrons of a Disney Park and were allegedly denied an equal opportunity to interact with costumed Disney employees; the Signage Class, who were alleged discriminated against by Disney's failure to provide signage, menus, and schedules in an accessible format; the Map class, who were likewise denied maps in an accessible alternative format; the Kennel Class, who either had to pay a fee to kennel their service animals at a Disney Park or were deterred from visiting because they would have to pay a kennel fee; the Audio Description Device Class, who used or attempted to use an audio device provided by Disney at one of its parks and were denied full use and enjoyment of the device; the Companion Ticket Class, who had to pay an additional admission fee for a companion or aide; the Plaintiff Parade Class, who allegedly were excluded from preferential locations during parades at Disney Parks; and the Locker Class, who were allegedly unable to use the lockers provided at Disney Parks because of the lack of accommodations provided.

On August 5, 2010, Disney filed a Notice of Removal, and the case was removed to United States District Court for the Central District of California. Because the case was brought under a federal cause of action, the ADA, the federal court had original subject matter jurisdiction over the case.

On September 10, the court accepted a First Amended Complaint, which added Disney Online, Inc. as a defendant, and two additional classes of plaintiffs: the Website Class, allegedly discriminated against by Disney's failure to make websites it owned and operated accessible to the blind and visually impaired; and the Parking Class, alleging that Disney had failed to comply with ADA guidelines for parking accommodations. The complaint also expanded the membership of the Kennel Class to include patrons who were allegedly discriminated against by Disney's locating of kennels outside of park entrances, rather than at ride entrances, and its refusal, in the absence of such kennels, to allow patrons to tie service animals up at ride entrances. The complaint estimated that total membership of the various classes was at least in the thousands, and argued that class action was therefore necessary as joinder of all members would be impracticable.

On April 15, 2011, Magistrate Judge John E. McDermott voluntarily recused himself from the case, citing personal knowledge of evidentiary facts at issue, after the Plaintiffs had filed a Motion to Disqualify him on the grounds that he had previously represented a key witness for the defense at trial. On April 22 the case was transferred to another Magistrate Judge for any discovery matters referred by the District Judge.

On June 29, 2011, the court (Judge Dolly Gee) issued an Order, granting in part and denying in part the Plaintiff's Motion for Class Certification. Judge Gee held that several subclasses did not meet class action requirements: the proposed Disney Character, Parking, and Locker subclasses were insufficiently large in number; and the claims of members of the Audio Description Device subclass were not sufficiently similar to each other. For these subclasses, the Court dismissed the relevant portions of the complaint without prejudice, allowing the plaintiffs to amend and refile if they chose. The Order granted the Plaintiff's motion with respect to all other proposed classes, certifying them. It held that the named plaintiffs and class council adequately represented the class. Shields v. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts US, Inc., 279 F.R.D. 529 (C.D. Cal. 2011).

On May 4, 2012, the court granted preliminary approval for a proposed class action settlement and allowed the Plaintiffs to file the Second Amended Complaint, which consolidated the ten classes proposed in the previous complaint into four more broadly defined classes that were inclusive of all the prior allegations, thus reinstating the claims dismissed in the June 29, 2011 order. The court granted final approval to a Class Action Settlement, filed January 18, 2013. In that settlement, although Disney did not admit liability, it did agree to substantially modify its practices and to provide accommodations for the Plaintiff classes.

The Settlement uses the class definitions from the Second Amended Complaint, and provides specific accommodations for each class:

  1. The Website Class, composed of all individuals with visual impairments who have a disability as defined by the ADA, and who had been or will be of their visual disability. Disney agreed to make all the content it produces for the websites it owns and operates accessible to blind and visually impaired users by December 31 2015, with earlier deadlines for specific sites, and with certain narrow exceptions.
  2. The Effective Communication Class, composed of all individuals with visual impairments who were or will be denied equal access to any of the Disney Parks because of the absence of maps, menus, and schedules available in an alternative format, or by the failure to be read in full the maps, menus, or schedules, or by inadequate and inconsistent operation of provided audio descriptions services, or due to Disney's refusal to provide a free or discounted pass to their sighted companion. Disney agreed to provide, by the effective date of the settlement, a telephone service to read current parade and show schedules and to answer questions from customers. Within 90 days of the Settlement, it agreed to have this number included in its "Services for Guests with Disabilities" sheet available at the Disney Parks, and posted on its websites. Disney agreed to provide a similar phone service for its menus. It agreed to provide menus, stationary maps, mobile maps, and other documents in braille. It agreed to train staff on the necessity of fully reading menus and schedules to visually impaired patrons on request. It agreed, in compensation for not providing companion tickets to earlier visitors, to give 200 tickets to specific Disney Parks to one or two 501(c)(3) organizations primarily benefiting blind individuals, to be specified from a provided list by the named plaintiffs. It agreed to enhance its audio description service to make it an effective aid and guide for blind and visually impaired patrons.
  3. The Service Animal Class, consisting of all visually impaired individuals who had been or will be denied equal access to or enjoyment of the Disney Parks because of the fee charged for the use of a kennel for their service animal, or the absence of reasonably-designated service animal relief areas, or the absence of a location to kennel their service animal at attractions that do not allow service animals, or the lack of equal interaction with Disney employees who portray Disney characters because the individuals with visual impairments were accompanied by service animals. Disney agreed to create at least three "designated relief areas" where service animals may defecate at each Disney Park, and to continue to allow service animals to defecate freely anywhere in the parks. It agreed to add information about these areas to the audio description service. It agreed to provide temporary kennels at attractions where service animals cannot be permitted to ride. It agreed to instruct its costumed characters to interact with patrons accompanied by service animals as they would with patrons without service animals.
  4. The Infrastructure Class, including all blind or visually impaired individuals who allegedly were or will be discriminated against by Disney because of physical barriers to access or the lack of reasonable modifications to Disney's policies and practices to permit equal access and enjoyment, including those individuals denied equal access to parade areas and public lockers. Disney agreed to provide, within 6 months of the Settlement date, updated guidelines for its parks providing disabled parade viewing areas to all guests with disabilities requiring preferential viewing as a result of their disability. It agreed to review the current designated areas to consider whether non-parade ambient noise might interfere with patrons' ability to experience the parade. Disney agreed to install five keyed lockers at each park, specifically for blind or visually impaired guests. It agreed to bring the "Pinocchio" parking lot at Disneyland into compliance with ADA guidelines and California law, and to create paths between that lot and an adjoining lot where a tram loading area exists.

The settlement purports to release Disney from all future claims by members of its plaintiff class regarding discrimination and/or lack of equal access under the common law or any state or federal law, arising from Disney's practices or procedures as subsequently modified in accordance with the terms of the Settlement Agreement.

The settlement allows each named Plaintiff a service payment. It granted the Class Council reasonable attorney's fees not to exceed $1,550,000. The final amounts awarded were $15,000 for each of the two named plaintiffs, attorneys' fees of $1,403,500, and costs of $146,500. These amounts were determined by the court.

On January 1, 2013, the court granted final approval to the Class Action Settlement and, as required by the Settlement, dismissed the Plaintiffs' complaint with prejudice.

Alex Colbert-Taylor - 05/31/2013


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Content of Injunction
Comply with advertising/recruiting requirements
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Discrimination Prohibition
Follow recruitment, hiring, or promotion protocols
Goals and Timekeeping
Implement complaint/dispute resolution process
Provide antidiscrimination training
Reasonable Accommodation
Defendant-type
Movie Theater or Other Entertainment facility
Parks
Restaurant
Transportation
Disability
Visual impairment
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Access to public accommodations - privately owned
Barrier Removal
Disparate Impact
Failure to train
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Parking
Phone
Reasonable Accommodations
Reasonable Modifications
Transportation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Non-government for profit
Causes of Action State law
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Defendant(s) Disney
Plaintiff Description Two named plaintiffs representing the class of blind or visually impaired patrons and would-be patrons of Disney's parks and resorts, alleging extensive discriminatory practices denying them equal access and enjoyment of the parks.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2013 - 2015
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
2:10−cv−05810 (C.D. Cal.) 01/29/2013
DR-CA-0037-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Notice of Removal of State Court Action under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1441 (b), and 1446 by Defendants [Includes Complaint] 08/05/2010
DR-CA-0037-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief 09/10/2010
DR-CA-0037-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Civil Minutes - General 04/15/2011 (C.D. Cal.)
DR-CA-0037-0005.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order re: Discovery Motions 05/09/2011 (C.D. Cal.)
DR-CA-0037-0006.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order re Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification 06/29/2011 (279 F.R.D. 529) (C.D. Cal.)
DR-CA-0037-0011.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Order re: Discovery Motions 08/05/2011 (C.D. Cal.)
DR-CA-0037-0007.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Class Action Settlement Agreement and Release 04/23/2012
DR-CA-0037-0001.pdf | Detail
[Proposed] Order Granting Preliminary Approval to Class Action Settlement, Granting Leave to File Second Amended Complaint, Conditionally Certifying Settlement Classes and Mandating Notice to Class of Final Approval and Fairness Hearing 04/23/2012
DR-CA-0037-0008.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Preliminary Approval to Class Action Settlement Granting Leave to File Second Amended Complaint, Conditionally Certifying Settlement Classes, and Mandating Notice to Class of Final Approval and Fairness Hearing 05/04/2012 (C.D. Cal.)
DR-CA-0037-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Preliminary Approval to Class Action Settlement, Granting Leave to File Second Amended Complaint, Conditionally Certifying Settlement Classes and Mandating Notice to Class of Final Approval and Fairness Hearing 05/04/2012 (C.D. Cal.)
DR-CA-0037-0009.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended Class Action Complaint 05/07/2012
DR-CA-0037-0010.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Requiring Response to Objections by National Federation of the Blind; Notice to Teresa Stocking Regarding Joint Motion for an Order Supplementing the Record of the May 4, 2012 Hearing 07/10/2012 (C.D. Cal.)
DR-CA-0037-0012.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Response to Objections of National Federation of the Blind and American Council of the Blind to Final Approval of Class Action Settlement 07/20/2012 (C.D. Cal.)
DR-CA-0037-0013.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Class Action Settlement Agreement and Release 01/18/2013
DR-CA-0037-0014.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Final Approval to Class Action Settlement and Dismissing Second Amended Complaint with Prejudice 01/29/2013 (C.D. Cal.)
DR-CA-0037-0015.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Gee, Dolly Maizie (C.D. Cal.)
DR-CA-0037-0002 | DR-CA-0037-0009 | DR-CA-0037-0011 | DR-CA-0037-0012 | DR-CA-0037-0014 | DR-CA-0037-0015 | DR-CA-0037-9000
McDermott, John E. Court not on record
DR-CA-0037-0005
Olguin, Fernando Manzano (C.D. Cal.) [Magistrate]
DR-CA-0037-0006 | DR-CA-0037-0007 | DR-CA-0037-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Atkinson, Lee Wm (Florida)
DR-CA-0037-9000
Dogali, Andy (Florida)
DR-CA-0037-0001 | DR-CA-0037-0004 | DR-CA-0037-0008 | DR-CA-0037-0010 | DR-CA-0037-0014 | DR-CA-0037-9000
Feldman, Eugene (California)
DR-CA-0037-0001 | DR-CA-0037-0004 | DR-CA-0037-0008 | DR-CA-0037-0010 | DR-CA-0037-0014 | DR-CA-0037-9000
Galloway, Lindsay (Florida)
DR-CA-0037-9000
Hohman, Brian A. (Florida)
DR-CA-0037-0004 | DR-CA-0037-9000
Uberoi, Barbara Ursula (Florida)
DR-CA-0037-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Altieri, James M. (California)
DR-CA-0037-0001 | DR-CA-0037-9000
Cohen, Yehonatan (California)
DR-CA-0037-9000
King, Jason F (New Jersey)
DR-CA-0037-9000
Min, Elena S (California)
DR-CA-0037-0003 | DR-CA-0037-9000
Raizman, David H. (California)
DR-CA-0037-0001 | DR-CA-0037-0003 | DR-CA-0037-0008 | DR-CA-0037-0013 | DR-CA-0037-0014 | DR-CA-0037-9000
Other Lawyers Geffen, David Grant (California)
DR-CA-0037-9000
Rivers, Surisa E (California)
DR-CA-0037-9000
Sidhu, Mehgan (Maryland)
DR-CA-0037-9000

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