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Employer’s Misinterpretation of its Own Policy Leads to ADA Suit


By Sean McLean

A man born without fully-formed hands was recently kicked off the Aquaman boat ride at an amusement park.  The amusement park manager told the man that pursuant to the amusement park’s policy, he must have at least one fully-formed arm all the way down to the fingers in order to ride the Aquaman.  The man argued he had previously ridden the Aquaman without incident and that the policy was illogical, as many riders actually keep their hands raised in the air throughout the ride.  “Went to the park in March and had a good time, rode everything I wanted to ride,” said the man.  Nevertheless, the amusement park refused to grant an exception allowing the man to ride the Aquaman, nor did it offer to refund his purchase of an amusement park pass.  

Misinterpretation of policy
Following this incident, the man hired legal counsel to pursue this matter further.  The man’s legal counsel discovered that the manager had misinterpreted the amusement park’s policy which, at the time of the incident, required only the ability to grasp, and not a fully formed arm and hand.  And despite the man’s lack of fully-formed hands, he was able to grasp the ride.  The man could also write, type tie his shoes, use a cell phone, and fire a gun.  As demonstrated by these activities, as well as the man’s prior patronage of the Aquaman ride, the man possessed any necessary ability to grasp.    

Violation of the ADA
As a result of the incident, the man filed suit against the amusement park alleging a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  As part of the man’s claim, he alleges the following:
• The amusement park regarding him as having a physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
• The amusement park operates a place of public accommodation.
• The amusement park discriminated against the man by failing to correctly enforce its own policy.
• The amusement park further discriminated against the man by failing to make reasonable accommodations for the man.

The case is currently ongoing in federal court.  Following this incident, the amusement park did revise its policy to require that riders possess at least one full arm.  However, the Aquaman ride itself has not changed.

King & Ballow will follow this case and keep you updated on its developments.
Read the Complaint here.

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