WINTER HAVEN, Fla. – On December 2, a Lithia mother and her disabled 10-year-old son filed a lawsuit against Legoland Beach Retreat and its British parent company, Merlin Entertainments Group. The lawsuit accuses Legoland’s Water Park of exhibiting discriminatory policies, practices, and procedures against children with disabilities. The Plaintiffs allege two counts of “Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress,” as well as “Violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act” and counts of negligence.
On July 16, 10-year-old “Z.G.” and his mother, Aleisha Mullinax, arrived at the famous Winter Haven amusement and attractions park along with “Z.G.’s” five-year-old sister. They first visited the guest services office where Ms. Mullinax spoke with “Ryan,” the on-site water park manager, to determine proper procedures for “Z.G.” to play on the slides. “Z.G.” wears a foam prosthetic leg made with a rubber foot that is classified as swim-ready, water-qualified, and enables walking and other movements. Ryan was informed that “Z.G.” could not swim without the prosthetic leg. In turn, he expressed concern for potential damage to the park’s amusements, to which Ms. Mullinax stated, “there’s no possible way,” according to an interview with her and her attorney.
Ryan then informed Ms. Mullinax that the child could enjoy the park, and if “Z.G.” was required to remove his prosthetic leg, he would be allowed to carry it or place it on his lap. When The Free Press asked Ms. Mullinax if “Z.G.” has enjoyed playing at other parks, she replied, “Yes, many of them. He has been going on rides since he was three or four years old.” She also stated “Z.G.” has never been required to remove his leg at any other amusement operation.
However, “Z.G.” approached an inner-tube water slide ride, saw no signs requiring removal of his prosthetic leg, climbed six stairs by himself, and was then told he must remove the prosthetic leg, and no, he could not take it with him. Humiliated and without his mother, who stayed behind to care for her other child who was too young to accompany “Z.G.,” he removed the prosthetic leg and left it at the top of the ride. At the end of the slide, “Z.G.” landed in a pool.
During a conference call with Ms. Mullinax and her attorney, it was stated “Z.G.” was up to his neck in water approximately four feet deep. He stands over four feet tall. Asked if “Z.G.” was near-drowning at any time, Ms. Mullinax said, “I would call it more ‘distressed.’ He was kind of standing in the water, using his arms but it was difficult and slow because he didn’t have his prosthetic leg. He hopped to the steps and sat down. Then he started crying.” When asked where the lifeguards were stationed, she said they were outside the steps. One was sitting and one was standing and didn’t seem to notice anything wrong. She said she told them about her son once he indicated to her that he did not have his prosthetic leg.
“Z.G.” and his mother waited for twenty minutes while a water park employee retrieved the prosthetic device. Unhappy with how her child was treated and how lifeguards were not notified a disabled child was coming down the waterslide, she spearheaded the lawsuit describing “Z.G.’s” consequent symptoms of trauma.
According to the lawsuit, “Z.G.” suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, residual trauma, recurring nightmares of drowning without his prosthetic leg, and negative sleep symptomology. In the conference call, Ms. Mullinax indicated her son has specifically been sleepwalking and sleep-talking but that his symptoms were slowly improving.
Ms. Mullinax’s attorney, Rook Elizabeth Ringer of the Letno Law Group located in St. Augustine, was asked if this was a near-drowning case. She replied, “It’s more about the child’s perception of drowning. It has a lot more to do with how it has given him nightmares.”
Legoland Beach Retreat is accused of violating Article III of the Americans with Disabilities Act by not providing accommodating policies, practices, or procedures to enable the disabled to enjoy the company’s amusements and attractions safely.
“My research indicates there have been other lawsuits filed against the Defendant,” Ringer said.