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JUL
11
2 YEARS

Amputees Sue Universal Studios Over Access to Roller Coaster

Operating thrilling rides that are both safe and accessible is not always easy; a recent lawsuit illustrates the tricky business of running a theme park.

Universal Studios Entrance Globe - P
Getty

From the department of "damned if you do, damned if you don't" comes news that Universal Studios Hollywood is facing a lawsuit by two individuals with amputated limbs who say that in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, Universal forbade them from riding the Revenge of the Mummy indoor roller coaster.

Angel Castelan, one of the plaintiffs, says that he wasn't permitted on the ride because he was told he does not have hands to grip the safety bars.

PHOTOS: Crazy Cases! 18 of Hollywood's Outrageous Entertainment Lawsuits

The lawsuit seeks damages plus an order requiring Universal Studios to change its policies to make the theme park more accessible to those with disabilities.

Universal isn't commenting on "pending litigation," but why might the theme park have such a policy on gripping the safety bars?

Maybe it's all the other lawsuits the theme park has faced over the years.

For example, a few years ago, the Orlando Sentinel ran a review of litigation facing the three big theme-park companies, including Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and Busch Entertainment Corp. The paper found that between 2004 and 2008, there were a whopping 477 personal-injury lawsuits filed and that more than a 100 of them came from people who were injured by rides or attractions.

Disney sees a lot of this kind of stuff, including from the parents of a 4-year-old who died of cardiac arrhythmia while riding Mission: Space; the woman who was banned from riding Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror ride up to 50 times a day after saying it was the only thing that alleviated a medical condition she had; and our personal favorite, the quadriplegic who sued after being stranded on the It's a Small World ride for 40 minutes.

Universal is no stranger to theme park ride lawsuits too, including facing one from a woman who suffered a a debilitating stroke after getting aboard the Back to the Future ride. The case was settled after four years of fighting in court.

So some folks want the theme parks to be more safe. And then there are other folks who demand more access.

That's the type of tricky position that Disney faced in 2009 after being sued by three disabled people who challenged a prohibition on Segway scooters inside its theme parks in Orlando and Anaheim. On one hand, Disney said that unrestricted use of such vehicles would create a safety hazard for guests traversing the busy theme park. On the other, the plaintiffs said that the scooter ban meant they couldn't themselves get around the park easily. Disney opted to pay a six-figure amount to settle the litigation.

Sometimes, when being between a rock and a hard place, it's best to throw around cash. According to that Orlando Sentinel review, most of these lawsuits settle. Paper beats rock.

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner