A visitor to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom got the wrong kind of attention from the wrong kind of rodent, suffering a bite from a rat that was most certainly not a costumed character but an actual, four-legged pest. And now the angry visitor is suing.
As the Orlando Sentinel reports, Galen Haldeman, then 59, and his wife, Carol, who uses a wheelchair, were enjoying their day in Tomorrowland at some point before March 19, when they filed their lawsuit. According to the couple’s suit, the pair had just exited Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin when Florida’s natural wildlife showed up and spoiled the day.
Specifically, the pair were exiting through the gift shop when the creature ran into the building. Someone yelled “Rat!” and kicked at it, causing the animal to jump up onto Carol’s wheelchair, according to the suit. Galen grabbed the beast in an effort to prevent it from biting his wife, so instead, the animal bit Galen’s finger. He then twisted its neck to kill it and threw it onto the floor.
Someone — it’s not clear who — threw a plastic bag over the rat. Then a Disney employee went into damage-control mode, urging bystanders not to photograph the rat and then hustling it away.
Now Galen is alleging that the rat attack disfigured him, as well as causing mental anguish and other problems, to say nothing of medical bills. He’s suing for $15,000.
“Disney violated its duty to keep its park clean and safe by allowing conditions to get to the point where rats were inhabiting the park and were even bold enough to come out openly, among people.”
Perhaps not surprising considering that Walt Disney World is a sprawling, 40-square-mile complex carved out of central Florida swamps and shrubland, animal control is an issue at Disney parks. And sometimes the animals win.
For example, in a tragic accident from 2016, as the L.A. Times reported at the time, two-year-old Lane Graves was killed by an alligator in the waters near the park’s Grand Floridian Resort.
Similarly, in 2014, as KTLA later reported, a family was visiting the Animal Kingdom Park when a snake fell from a tree and bit a boy, according to the family’s lawsuit. The boy was treated at the scene and suffered no ill effects. However, the incident caused the family’s grandmother to go into cardiac arrest; she died two days later.