Disney settles Segway suit

Walt Disney Co., the world’s largest theme-park operator, agreed to settle a lawsuit over claims a ban on personal two-wheel transporters at its facilities violates federal disabilities laws.

Three residents of Illinois and Iowa sued Disney in November 2007 after they were prohibited from using the Segway Personal Transporter on family vacations at four theme parks in Florida. Disney agreed to acquire at least 15 newly designed electric stand-up vehicles that meet its safety standards, according to papers filed Dec. 5 in federal court in Orlando.

This settlement is superior to the cost of continued litigation,lawyers for both sides said in the filing.

The Segway, a two-wheeled, self-balancing transportation device, allows riders to remain upright and steer with body movements. The device, which debuted in 2002, is used by as many as 7,000 people in the U.S. with mobility-related disabilities, according to the complaint.

As part of the deal, Disney will provide disabled visitors alternate access to parks in Florida and Disneyland in California. The new vehicles, called ESVs, are intended to replicate in dimension and operation a common wheelchair or motorized scooter while allowing users to stand upright, according to court papers.

The ESVs will be rented on the same terms as sit-down electric vehicles. Disney will continue to ban guests from using two-wheeled vehicles, including Segways, within resorts, according to the filing.

Free Stay

In addition to offering the new vehicles, Disney agreed to pay $70,000 in attorneys fees and expenses, according to the filing. The company also will allow plaintiffs Mahala Ault, Stacie Rhea and Dan Wallace to stay with their families for a week at Walt Disney World, with complimentary use of an ESV.

Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Polak had no immediate comment.

Disney rose $2.12, or 9.3 percent, to $24.89 at 1:16 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The company announced today plans to boost its stake in Jetix Europe NV, the owner of Europe’s most widely distributed children’s television channel, to 96 percent from 73 percent.

The case is Ault v. Walt Disney World Co., 07-1785, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida


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