Jim Porter: Segway an unstable device?
August 29, 2013
Tina Baughman has a degenerative muscular disease that makes it difficult for her to walk or rise from a seated position.
Although Baughman has never been to Disneyland in Southern California, she sued Mickey, Donald et al. because she wanted to use a Segway rather than her wheelchair.
Disneyland prohibits Segways for safety reasons in its parks.
A Segway is a gyroscopically stabilized two-wheel battery-powered personal transportation device upon which the individual stands.
I like that. It's the definition used by this California Court of Appeal. Although I have never ridden one, they look like fun.
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BIG FAT LIE
Baughman sued Disney in federal court claiming a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In that lawsuit she told the Court that a Segway was her preferred method of transportation, adding she never used a wheelchair.
That was her undoing in federal court. She had three prior successful lawsuits against Santa Monica Ford, Department of Motor Vehicles and Save-On Drugs claiming she always used a wheelchair.
Liar, liar, pants on fire. We wrote about that case last October. The Court of Appeals threw Baughman's federal case out the window.
Because Baughman also had a claim against Disney under the California Disabled Persons Act, her state case, this case, remained in Orange County.
Disney's policy prohibiting Segways in its parks is based upon its expert's opinion that Segways are not safe for use inside Disneyland: "Just as it is virtually impossible for a unicycle rider to stop moving and remain still — because the unicycle requires movement to operate, the Segway is constantly moving to find its center of gravity created by the rider's weight and directional learning … a small misstep or wrong move or malfunction would cause the Segway to lose control, speed forward or backward or tip over, injuring its rider and other persons."
Baughman countered that Disney uses Segways on its back lots and for demonstration tours.
STATE COURT RULING
The State Court of Appeal ultimately ruled that Disney had demonstrated that "a Segway is an unstable two-wheel device that could accelerate quickly, either forward or backward, and injure the rider and/or others if the rider is bumped … Segways cannot be used safely in Disneyland crowds due to its method of operation … there is no evidence showing the Segway can be safely used at Disneyland." Take that Segway.
End of story for Baughman.
She lost her federal case and now lost her state case.
CLASS ACTION FOOTNOTE
Unrelated to Tina Baughman's lawsuits against Disney, there is a federal class action lawsuit against Disney, specifically Walt Disney World, by many individuals seeking to use Segways in Disney parks.
The class action case was settled. The plaintiffs dropped their claims as Disney agreed to develop a four-wheeled, electric stand-up vehicle (the "ESV") for those for whom a stand-up device is a necessity and who are unable to utilize a mobility device that requires sitting, like an electronic wheelchair or motorized scooter.
So, we won't be seeing two-wheeled Segways anytime soon in Disneyland and Disney World, but apparently we will soon see a four-wheeled version.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, Calif., and Reno, Nev. He was the Governor's appointee to the California Fair Political Practices Commission involving election law and the Political Reform Act. He may be reached at email@example.com or at the firm's website http://www.portersimon.com.