Case of Injured Child Raises Liability Questions in Theme Parks

A Florida lawsuit concerning a serious burn suffered by a four year old boy while visiting Disney World raises questions every parent should be concerned about regarding safety and possible injuries to children at theme parks and other recreational areas.

Contrary to what one might think, the case involves food safety – not the safety of amusement park rides (arguably the first thing many parents worry about when visiting a theme park). According to an account of the incident published in USA Today, the boy was severely burned while having dinner in a restaurant at Disney’s Magic Kingdom resort near Orlando “when a paper cup of scalding nacho cheese splashed on his face after he’d grabbed a food tray to keep from falling out of an unsteady chair.” A picture accompanying the newspaper report shows a small child with horrific burns disfiguring his face.

Some commentators have compared this to the famous McDonald’s hot coffee case of the mid-90s. But even if you were among those who thought the coffee case excessive it is important to understand that there are key difference between that case and this one. Aside from the obvious factor that a child is involved, it is (or ought to be) clear that customers have different expectations from different products. Coffee is intended to be consumed hot. Nachos, especially the processed kind one finds at an amusement park or a ballgame, are generally warm, at best. One does not expect the goopy cheese sauce to be cold – but no reasonable customer is expecting it to be scalding hot either.

The Disney case is a useful reminder for us here in Oregon that Portland injuries to minors are a serious concern in many settings we often take for granted. Operators of recreational and entertainment facilities have an obligation to provide their customers – especially children – with a safe environment in which to enjoy their leisure time. When they fail in that duty, parents should consult with an Oregon child injury lawyer at the first available opportunity. Justice is about more than simply gaining compensation for medical bills or for the suffering of your child. It involves holding the powerful to account for their actions – or dangerous inaction.

USA Today: Parents sue over son’s hot nacho cheese injury at Disney World