Disney World Guest Wins Injury Award

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

A Walt Disney World guest has been awarded $841,535 for injuries he suffered at the Florida theme park resort’s Grand Prix Raceway ride.

An Orange County (Fla.) Circuit Court jury ruled Jan. 14 that Disney was partly responsible for back injuries to Gustavo Sanchez, who was 43 when he was rear-ended on the Grand Prix Raceway ride in 1995.

Sanchez sued Disney World in 1997, claiming the injury required back surgery and cost him the ability to work.


Disney will consider whether to appeal this month, said Disney spokeswoman Diane Ledder.

The company admits no fault and has no plans to change the ride, the name of which was recently changed to the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway, Ledder said.

The ride consists of miniature gasoline-powered race cars on a paved track. The cars straddle a guide rail that limits steering and prevents drivers from drifting off-track or into other cars. By stepping on a pedal, patrons can accelerate the cars to about 7 mph.

The attraction is in the Magic Kingdom theme park, the Florida version of Disneyland, and is similar to Disneyland’s Autopia ride in Anaheim. Disneyland spokesman Ray Gomez said he hadn’t heard of the Florida case, and couldn’t say if it will affect local operations.

Although Disney has a reputation for playing legal hardball, plaintiffs’ lawyers say the company ultimately settles cases when it is clearly liable. More than a year after a Seattle-area tourist was killed in an accident blamed on an inadequately trained Disneyland employee, the company is in settlement talks with the victim’s family. No lawsuit has been filed.

Sanchez testified that as he neared the end of the six-minute ride, he was rear-ended by a car driven by an unidentified boy. He was later taken to the park’s first-aid station, then to a hospital by ambulance.

Jurors ruled the unidentified driver deserved 60% of the blame and Disney and Sanchez 20% each. Under Florida law, Disney may have to pay Sanchez for the other driver’s portion.