Scarlett Johansson

The Biggest Lawsuits Disney Ever Faced (Before Scarlett Johansson)

Disney has been at the center of legal controversy almost as long as it has been in business.

Disney is in the news right now because of Scarlett Johansson’s recent lawsuit against the company, based on her claim that by putting Black Widow out on its streaming service, Disney+, she has lost out on revenue from box office sales. Emma Stone is reportedly considering filing a suit too, regarding the hybrid release of her recent film Cruella. This is far from Disney’s first encounter with lawsuits.

The company has been at the center of legal controversy almost as long as it has been in business. Disney touts itself as “The Most Magical Place on Earth,” but if you’ve been reading the headlines for long enough, you know that that’s not always the case. Would the most magical place on earth have an ever-growing laundry list of deaths, injuries, and high-profile lawsuits that have occurred on its turf? You be the judge; here are the topics of some of the biggest and most notorious lawsuits Disney has ever faced.

10 A Space Mountain Injury

Far from the first to sue Disney over an injury, Denise Guerrero was working the Space Mountain loading dock checking safety belts in 1980 when she became entangled as the ride left the loading dock. She was dragged 25 feet and suffered a broken pelvis and ankle, bruises, and lacerations. Disneyland agreed to pay out $154,000 in cash plus $240,000 in a tax-free annuity program for the rest of her life.

‘Pink Slime’ In Ground Beef

Beef Products Inc., a meat processor based in South Dakota, filed a defamation suit against Disney in 2012 charging that ABC’s coverage of their product – officially called “finely textured beef” – misled consumers into thinking it wasn’t safe to eat. Some grocery stores stopped carrying their product, resulting in plummeting sales and lost jobs for the company’s employees.

A Fatal Alligator Attack

Many will remember a fairly recent incident where a toddler was attacked by an alligator at Disney World after he climbed into the enclosure. Exact numbers have not been disclosed but it is estimated that the boy’s family received around $10 million from Disney.

Inappropriate Contact From Tigger

In 2004, the actor playing Tigger allegedly touched a 13-year-old girl inappropriately while taking a photo with her. The victim’s mother claimed he had touched her in a similar way, but the jury found Michael Chartrand, the man inside the Tigger costume, not guilty when he was able to demonstrate that the costume was so cumbersome and restrictive to his range of motion that he would not have been able to touch them as they claimed.

A Deadly Monorail Crash

Walt Disney World monorail pilot Austin Wuennenberg died in a monorail crash during the summer of 2009. He was just 21 years old. He was in front of a monorail when another train backed into him and crushed the pilot capsule. An investigation revealed that the monorail manager who should have been on duty at the time instead was at a restaurant. With plenty of evidence revealed that this was the result of negligence and unsafe practices, Disney agreed to a private settlement with the victim’s family before the case went to court.

Death On Big Thunder Mountain

The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster at Disneyland went off the tracks one day in 2003, killing 22-year-old Marcelo Torres and injuring 10 other guests. The victim’s parents claimed the incident was a result of budgets being cut at the park, leading to dangerous conditions and decreased safeguards. An investigation found that a mechanic did faulty repair work, which a manager deemed safe without inspecting it. It was also discovered that ride operators ignored a suspicious noise for half an hour before the accident occurred. Disney settled with the Torres family, as is clearly their pattern.

Pay Equity

In 2019, 10 female employees filed a suit against Disney citing pay discrimination against women and lost wages as a result. An investigation was done on the company’s pay practices but the information the investigation yielded has been classified as confidential. The women’s attorneys have argued that the documents should be shared. Workers at Disneyland have also alleged that the company does not pay its workers a living wage.

An Injury Aboard The ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’ Ride

In June 2015, Lynn Barrett slipped and fell in a boat on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, claiming that the boat had water on the floor. She cited bruises and a twisted ankle and was subsequently diagnosed with “complex regional pain syndrome” and underwent a series of injections and a spinal cord procedure. Her medical bills added up to almost $500,000. Disney claimed that the nature of the ride is that riders will get wet and denied any negligence on their part.

Wheelchair Inaccessibility

In 2009, filmmaker Jose Martinez, who is quadriplegic and uses a wheelchair, was stranded aboard the “It’s a Small World” ride, which had temporarily broken down. He was in a wheelchair-accessible seat, but the configuration of the boat prevented him from making an emergency exit. He wasn’t evacuated for 40 more minutes, and he claimed that the endless refrain of the attraction’s theme song caused him to suffer dysreflexia, which is often triggered by overstimulation and can lead to stroke or death.

Pulling Out Of A Real Estate Contract

Resort developer Genting Malaysia has sued Walt Disney Co. and Fox Entertainment Group for over $1 billion in damages for pulling out of a contract related to a Fox World theme park in Resort World Genting in Malaysia. Fox withdrew from an agreement that would have licensed its intellectual property for the park, which would have been Fox’s first theme park.

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