Tuesday, April 16, 2013 at 12:17 p.m.
A handicapped man and his wife entered Disneyland one day in November 2009 and were thrilled about riding the world-famous attractions.
But, according to a 2011 federal lawsuit, their joy "quickly gave way to embarrassment, frustration and humiliation," an experience that "turned into a painful, terrifying and life-threatening ordeal" for Jose R. Martinez, who is a quadriplegic confined to a motorized wheelchair.
The couple's Los Angeles-based lawyers claimed a "majority" of the rides were not legally accessible to Martinez and that the only one he could enjoy was "It's a Small World."
Worse, while on that ride, it allegedly malfunctioned, leaving him stranded for more than 40 minutes because Disneyland cast members were not adequately trained to deal with a person in Martinez's condition, according to the lawsuit.
Even worse, the plaintiffs' lawyers claimed, Martinez nearly suffered a life-threatening stroke while waiting to be evacuated.
"Instead of the 'happiest' place, Disneyland was a place where they experienced discrimination and an unnecessary, life-threatening situation based on Disneyland's practices and procedures (and lack thereof) regarding procedures for and evacuation of persons with mobility disabilities and the inadequate training of employees," the lawsuit stated.
Based on the level of outrage contained in the 26-page document, it's likely Martinez expected a big payday from the ultra-wealthy, corporate Mouse.
But this month inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse, U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna apparently wasn't as incensed by the claims in the complaint.
He ruled for Martinez on his property liability and negligence claims. But he sided with Disney on several issues, and then he handed the handicapped man his legal reward: just $8,000.
Actually, Selna deducted $800 from that payment after citing "Martinez's own contributory negligence and failure to mitigate his damages."
On a side note, the case prompted the theme park's management to remove lingering architectural barriers for the handicapped, according to the judge's notes.