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Disneyland Employees Snickered and Giggled When Disabled Woman Fell on Jungle Cruise Ride, Wrongful Death Lawsuit Alleges

Jungle Cruise in Adventureland inside Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, on Friday, July 9, 2021. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Jungle Cruise in Adventureland inside Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, on Friday, July 9, 2021. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

A wrongful death lawsuit alleges Disneyland Resort employees snickered and giggled when a 66-year-old woman in a wheelchair fell while getting off the Jungle Cruise ride at the Anaheim theme park.

Joanne Aguilar was at Disneyland on Aug. 22, 2021, when she suffered a broken leg in a fall while getting off the attraction, her family said. Months later Aguilar, while recovering from the injury, contracted an infection and died after going into septic shock in January 2022, court documents 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,” Michael Jeandron, an attorney for Andrea Mallul and Zenobia Hernandez, Aguilar’s daughters, said in a statement. “Two daughters are heartbroken, healing, and seeking accountability for Disney cast members who laughed at their struggling mother instead of helping her.”

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The lawsuit, filed in Orange County Superior Court on Nov. 18, names Walt Disney Parks and Resorts (WDPR) and Disneyland. It alleges negligence, wrongful death, and a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The lawsuit said her injuries were a result of negligence, violation of disabled access, and safety standards protecting disabled people.

The complaint seeks $25,000 in damages and a jury trial.

Disney did not immediately respond to a call for comment. But in their answer to the complaint filed in December, Disney officials denied the allegations.

“The alleged liability of WDPR stems from the failure of Plaintiffs, Decedent, or others to exercise reasonable or ordinary care, caution, or vigilance for which WDPR is not legally liable or responsible,” the document said.

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Aguilar couldn’t walk due to a knee injury and used a wheelchair to get around the park that day with her daughters, the complaint said.

She fell and broke her leg getting off the Jungle Cruise, a boat ride through areas with themes from Asia, Africa, and South America, the complaint said.

The lawsuit alleges that Disney workers stood around watching and didn’t help Aguilar as she struggled to get out of the boat after a ride.

“Getting into the boat was difficult, but 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 complaint said. “The struggle was apparent and Disney cast members began snickered (sic) and giggling as they watched Ms. Aguilar try to safely exit the boat.”

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Aguilar fell when unsecured blocks set up to help shorten the height of steps to make it easier for her to get off the ride became unstable.

She lost her balance and fell, “crashing down with her full weight,” court documents said. She suffered a compound fracture to her femur and remained hospitalized for 10 days before being transferred to a rehab center.

During Aguilar’s recovery, she contracted an infection, which led to septic shock, court documents state. She died on Jan. 29, 2022.

“From the time Ms. Aguilar left Disneyland in an ambulance on August 22, 2021, she was never able to return home,” the complaint said. “Ms. Aguilar spent the remainder of her life at Anaheim Global Medical Center and thereafter Oxnard Manor Healthcare Center.”

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