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Disney Duck Grope: Federal Lawsuit Alleges “Physically Menacing Act” at Epcot

Donald Duck.jpgDisney has been sued by a Pennsylvania tourist alleging negligence, battery, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and intentional and reckless infliction of emotional distress – at $50,000 a pop. The woman claims that her breast was groped by the person in a Donald Duck costume whom she had asked for an autograph. The $200,000 civil lawsuit originally filed in Pennsylvania’s Court of Common Pleas in December 2009 has been transferred to Philadelphia’s federal court after a request from Disney to move it there.

The lawsuit also states the Orange County Sheriff’s Office has received 24 complaints alleging similar acts by costumed characters since 2004, according to The Orlando Sentinel’s report of the case. A Sheriff’s Office spokesman said that sex-crimes investigators are working on providing an official count. In 2004, a person dressed as Tigger was accused of groping a 13-year-old girl and her mother at Magic Kingdom’s Mickey’s Toontown Fair.

Resort Torts are cases of civil liability for negligent or criminal acts that arise out of a resort, vacation or recreational setting. Negligent security cases involving hotels, resorts, and amusement and theme parks typically involve criminal assaults, including robberies and sexual assaults. The law governing negligent security cases is largely derivative of general premises liability law. The general statement of law is that one who possesses property (landlord/owner/lessee) owes a duty of care to the public (visitors, guests, invitees) to eliminate and protect them against accidental, negligent, and intentional acts of third parties. See generally, Restatement (Second) of Torts, § 344 (1963) (land possessor entreating members of public to do business is subject to liability to public for physical harm caused by intentionally harmful acts of third persons on property and by land possessor’s failure to exercise reasonable care to provide adequate warning or protection).

The Disney lawsuit states that “[Disney] has engaged in a practice of placing corporate profits over public safety while attempting to cover up continuing, long-standing similar prior incidents.”