Disney annual passholders lawsuit: No names? No case, judge says.
Image via AP.

'One of the Plaintiffs has a minor stepson she does not want to subject to ridicule and confrontation due to her connection with this lawsuit.'

The lawsuit filed by two anonymous Disney World passholders who couldn’t snag park reservations appears to be in jeopardy.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Irick warned the federal lawsuit could get dismissed “without further notice” because the two women refuse to disclose their full names, according to an order filed Monday. 

In October, Orange County resident “M.P.” and Palm Beach County resident “E.K.” sued Disney, complaining they had passes with no blockout dates but there were no available reservations to actually visit the parks.

The Walt Disney Company — in particular its theme parks — is covered by local Central Florida media, national outlets and bloggers who report on Disney news and latest happenings to a huge fan base.

“At the filing of the lawsuit, it was impossible for Plaintiffs to know the magnitude of the lawsuit and the effect it would have on their lives. Now that the lawsuit has been filed, and the public has reacted, the Court is presented with a clear picture of what is at risk. Plaintiffs are at risk of real harm,” the two women said in a court filing last month when they asked to keep their full names hidden from the public.

M.P. and E.K. said their lawsuit had gotten extensive media attention and they were concerned about negative comments on social media.

“One of the Plaintiffs has a minor stepson she does not want to subject to ridicule and confrontation due to her connection with this lawsuit. The other Plaintiff is specifically concerned the tenants in her rental house will be heckled by disgruntled Disney supporters due to her name being listed on the rental home,” the women said in court records.

“Angry supporters of (Disney) have taken to the internet and online social media to express their frustrations with Plaintiffs, leaving Plaintiffs fearful of what will come next ….The online bullying, harassment, and hateful comments amplify Plaintiffs’ need for anonymity.”

Their court filing included 28 Facebook screenshots and five news stories, including ones from Fox 35 Orlando and the New York Post.

“Good grief. People will sue about anything,” one person wrote on Facebook, according to one of the screenshots.

“Good luck with that Karen,” said another.

“You want Disney to get rid of passholders all together … this is how you do it,” a commenter complained.

But the judge was not swayed and called the women’s concerns about physical harm and bullying “pure speculation.” There was no need to be anonymous since the two women are not minors, the lawsuit didn’t involve sexual assault allegations and no one has threatened to harm them, Irick said.

“Instead, Plaintiffs’ concerns are more akin to the fear of personal embarrassment and their argument and evidence does not outweigh the interest in proceeding publicly,” the judge wrote in his order, denying their request to shield their identities from the public. “This case is subject to being dismissed without further notice for both a violation of the Court’s Order and a failure to prosecute.”

The attorneys representing E.K. and M.P. did not immediately respond for comment Thursday morning.

Beginning during the pandemic, Disney World began requiring passholders and ticket buyers to go the extra step of securing advanced online reservations before they walk through the turnstiles. Even after nearly all of the COVID-19 rules are gone at Disney, the reservation system has remained — to the ire of some fans who have called on returning company CEO Bob Iger to drop it.

“Disney’s conduct is a predatory business practice, aimed at exploiting the customers who support it the most, its annual pass holders,” the two women’s lawsuit said.

Disney said in a statement to Florida Politics, “Annual Passholders continue to be some of our biggest fans and most loyal guests. We’ve been upfront with Passholders about the updates we’ve made, and we offered them the flexibility to opt-in or opt-out of the program early in the pandemic, including refunds if they desired. This lawsuit mischaracterizes the program and its history, and we will respond further in court.”

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .


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