Family files wrongful death & ADA lawsuit against Disneyland & employees after disabled woman fell off Jungle Cruise ride and later died

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Disabled 66-year-old Joanne Aguilar visited Disneyland with her two daughters on August 22, 2021, and died a few months later due to injuries sustained after she fell while disembarking from the Jungle Cruise ride.

The Aguilar family filed a wrongful death lawsuit, charging that Disneyland violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and also claiming that employees laughed as the handicapped women struggled to get off the ride. The lawsuit names the Walt Disney Company, its theme park division, and Disneyland. The case is assigned to federal Judge Cormac Carney in Santa Ana, California.

Court documents say that Aguilar and her two adult daughters, Andrea Mallul and Zenobia Hernandez, accompanied her to Disneyland on Aug. 22, 2021, and helped her get on the boat.

But when she tried to get off the boat, they had trouble getting her up "small unsecured blocks on top of the existing steps inside the boat," reports said.

When the family arrived at the Jungle Cruise ride, they were told a wheelchair-accessible boat was unavailable. With the help of her daughters, Aguilar chose to take the ride on the typical boat anyway.

When the ride was over, the handicapped woman was helped to get off the boat. However, the family alleges, the cast members began laughing at her struggles, which resulted in Aguilar feeling “ashamed and embarrassed.”

As Aguilar attempted to leave the boat, she had problems due to "small unsecured blocks on top of the existing steps inside the boat,” the suit alleges.

The suit claims that "exiting the boat was more difficult as it required her to propel her body upward with her lower legs, which due to her disability was not possible. The struggle was apparent and Disney cast members began snickering and giggling as they watched Ms. Aguilar try to safely exit the boat."

It was then, while Aguilar was on blocks placed on the steps to disembark, that she lost her balance. She fell back and fractured her right femur. She was taken to a hospital, stayed for ten days, and was then transported to an Oxnard rehabilitation facility.

Aguilar was kept in the rehab center for five months as a result of her injuries at Disneyland. It was there she contracted an infection and went into septic shock. She died on January 29, 2022. The lawsuit claims Aguilar died as a result of her injuries from the park.

The Aguilar family filed their lawsuit, claiming Disneyland violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and for the wrongful death of Ms. Aguilar. The court documents say they seek a monetary judgment for physical pain, mental suffering, humiliation, medical costs and also funeral expenses.

The violation of the ADA refers to the fact that Aguilar was told there was no wheelchair-accessible boat available for the ride.

Disney disagrees. The company is seeking a jury trial, after denying the lawsuit’s allegations.

The Aguilar family’s lawyer, Michael Jeandron, in an interview with the Orange County Register, said, “My clients went to Disneyland with the hopes of creating life-long happy memories and instead are left with the memory of a lack of dignity and respect for their mother which ultimately led to her final demise. Two daughters are heartbroken, healing and seeking accountability for Disney cast members who laughed at their struggling mother instead of helping her.”

Diane Lilli
Diane Lilli
Diane Lilli is an award winning Journalist, Editor and Author for over 18 years for New Jersey news outlets (print and online) including launching the first daily digital newspaper in 2005, Jersey Tomato Press. She has been published in numerous newspapers; journals; magazines and literary publications nationally and is the winner of the Shirley Chisholm Journalism Award.
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