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Orlando theme parks explore small numbers

By Robert Niles
Published: March 30, 2009 at 10:32 AM
Two notes this morning of potential interest to theme park fans:

  • First, the Orlando Sentinel has compiled an impressive database of all 477 state and federal personal injury lawsuits filed against Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and the SeaWorld Orlando parks between 2004 and 2008. The Sentinel's research first illustrates just how rare lawsuits are against these theme parks. Remember that during that four-year period, the parks hosted more than 100 million visitors.

    The majority of the suits filed never make it to a courtroom, either. The Sentinel found that just seven cases filed since 2004 have gone to trial and reached a verdict. And that the parks won all seven. (And the parks recouped their legal fees in at leats one of them.) Basically, if you are among the tiny fraction of people who have a realistic case against a park, you and the park likely settle.

    When I worked in the parks, I witnessed plenty of incidents that could have risen to the level of a suit. But, the data show, they almost never do. Despite the bloviating of people clamoring for lawsuit reform, most people and companies are reasonable and can settle up or deal with incidents before juries get involved.

  • Analysts at Goldman Sachs (are they still in business? /snark) estimate that attendance is falling at Disney's U.S. theme parks, and will tank by the end of the year. They're predicting attendance to be down by 10 percent in the fourth quarter (late summer and fall) over the same time last year.

    Readers' Opinions

    From 69.76.111.26 on March 30, 2009 at 10:58 AM
    The only problem is the park should have recouped there costs in all 7 cases they won. Which shows that if someone is going to file a suit, either they or there law firm should be required to post bond covering the other sides courts costs, and if there case is that strong they should have no problem doing so as the ambulace chasing trial lawyers have very deep pockets!!!
    From W McDougal on March 30, 2009 at 11:01 AM
    Good info on the first. Most threatened lawsuits are the empty words of a blowhard that get knocked down by courts quickly.

    For the second, how much faith can we put in anything Goldman Sachs predicts? I don't doubt that WDW is going to see some bad attendance numbers this year, but I doubt that will be the case for DLR. Empirical evidence has pointed to a packed park so far this year, and I don't think that will change anytime soon.

    From 65.174.53.133 on March 30, 2009 at 12:24 PM
    We are in a recession and the Parks are still packed. I don't see a 10% drop in attendance anytime soon.
    From 24.1.105.165 on March 30, 2009 at 12:30 PM
    Read some of the complaints at the parks. It is actually quite interesting. Also, of the 477 reports, some are very minor and frivilous. I looked at EPCOT and Magic Kingdom and most were somebody slipping here, somebody slipping there, but my favorite was the man who sued the Magic Kingdom because he was "humiliated" and then fainted when a cast member challenged his fastpass. It was thrown out, but interesting stuff!
    From Anthony Murphy on March 30, 2009 at 12:33 PM
    My favorite is the guy who sued because he was humiliated and fainted because a cast member challenged whether he had a fast pass.

    Most of the 477 seem extremly minor and actually out of Disney's hands with trips, slips, etc. If that were the case, I might have some cases :)

    From TH Creative on March 30, 2009 at 2:35 PM
    Echo - echo - co - co - o - o . . .
    From Don Neal on March 30, 2009 at 3:23 PM
    10% decline? I don't think so. These guys are just doomsday predictors. I'm not stupid. I can see the economy for what it is but 10%? Maybe 3% or 5%. I might even believe 6% but 10%? Where's the data to back that? What analysis did they do to come to that conclusion? What trends are they seeing to lead to such a prediction? These guys should go into the news casting business. *sigh*
    From Anthony Murphy on March 30, 2009 at 3:57 PM
    Sorry for the repeat post (I am the number one before mine) I thought it didn't go through due to me not being logged in and it was not showing! Still, those lawsuits are funny (at least some of them!)
    From Joshua Counsil on March 30, 2009 at 5:41 PM
    Like I stated in a post for a different topic, it's times like these that I wish lawsuits were non-existent. Suing a company because you dodged a stream of water and slipped? COME ON. Don't be such a damn baby.

    Some of them are somewhat legitimate, like the incidents on rides, but most are just sheer idiocy.

    From TH Creative on March 31, 2009 at 3:27 AM
    News today indicates that while tourism is down we (Orlando) is still on pace to welcome 45 million visitors this year and that we are still the #1 vacation destination. And as rough as it is (and as it is going to get) we are still a heckuva lot better off than Vegas.

    Sidenote: Kudos to the Disney and Universal for potting the downward trend more than a year ago and reacting with discounts and aggressive promotions.

    We will make it through.

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