According to an investigative report by the Orlando Sentinel, at least 101 Florida theme park lawsuits have been filed since 2004 against Disney, Universal or Busch Entertainment, involving allegations that people were injured by rides or attractions. However, none of the cases have reached a jury, with confidential settlements reached in most of the lawsuits.
Florida’s big theme-parks include Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and Busch Entertainment Corp.’s Sea World in Orlando and Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay.
The Orlando Sentinal report indicates that a total of 477 Florida personal injury lawsuits were filed between the beginning of 2004 and the end of 2008 against the three companies that run these parks. Most of the claims involve slip-and-fall accidents or other injuries that occurred on the property.
Over 20% (101 cases) of the Florida theme park lawsuits involved claims for a personal injury that was caused by a ride or attraction, including serious health problems like spinal injury, heart attack, stroke and death.
Approximately 25% of the ride lawsuits (23 out of 101) are still pending in Florida state or federal courts, with the remaining cases either settled out of court or dismissed by the judge. None of the amusement park ride lawsuits filed over the four year period have been decided by a jury in open court.
Other than three settlements of $25,000 or less, all of the settlement agreements were sealed from public view, minimizing awareness of the allegedly negligent actions of the theme parks that may have caused the injuries.
Florida theme parks are exempt under state law from state inspections and mandatory reporting, unless the injury results in death or immediate hospitalization of over 24 hours. The Sentinal found that only 9 of the 101 theme park ride lawsuits filed had been reported by the three companies as accidents.
Over the past five years, the Sentinal found that five rides in particular were linked to about 20% of the personal injury lawsuits. There were 7 “Dudley Do-Right’s Ripshaw Falls” lawsuits at Universal Orland, 5 “Mission:Space” at Epcot lawsuits and three lawsuits each for “The Black Hole” Wet ‘n’ Wild water slide, “Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges” river raft ride at Islands of Adventure and “Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster” at Hollywood Studios. Another 11 rides generated at least 2 personal injury lawsuits each.