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Man to appeal suit against Disney over 2006 injury

Dave Peterson says exculpatory clauses in Florida put consumers at risk

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Even if it was due to gross negligence. In other words, the Disney waiver stated, Owen Peterson was not entitled to anything at all. Not even that first hospital bill Peterson says they initially agreed to pay.

Despite the fact that he signed the waiver and was told there was nothing he could do about it, in 2010 Owen Peterson sued Disney, Crossfire Inc. (the company flying the giant advertising balloon that hit Owen in the head) and the alleged owner of Paintball Sports Promotions, the organization that promoted the paintball tournament and contracted with Lloyds of London to take out a $2 million liability policy to cover the November 2006 tournament. (An interesting sidenote: Lloyd’s of London later went on to file a breach of contract suit against Paintball Sports Promotions and Walt Disney World in relation to Peterson’s suit, claiming that the two organizations agreed to contact them about any incidents that happened at the paintball event. Lloyd’s did not learn of Peterson’s injury until Peterson attempted to make a claim on the policy. Which was denied, because the injury happened at the trade show and not during an actual paintball game.)

In his complaint, Peterson insisted that the injury he suffered was a result of negligence on the part of Crossfire Inc. (also known as Flare Fittings). The complaint contends that the company failed to properly secure the advertising balloon, failed to keep it a safe distance away from trade show attendees and failed to take the balloon down, even though the wind made it a safety hazard on the day in question when it slammed into Peterson. It created an “unreasonably dangerous condition on the premises,” the complaint says, pointing out that Disney itself failed to “inspect or adequately inspect” the vendor areas, pedestrian walkways and retail booths. The complaint requested a trial by jury and damages of $15,000 to compensate him for medical bills and hardship.

The case wound its way through the process and was eventually put on the trial docket for May 20, 2013. But it never made it that far. In February 2013, according to a court document filed on behalf of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Peterson “voluntarily signed the release in connection with his participation in the paintball event” and, even though he signed it on Nov. 9, the agreement was dated retroactively and covered a period beginning Nov. 7 and ending Nov. 12, 2006. “The scope of the release,” Disney’s filing says, “was before, during or after participation.” So, in other words, it could potentially cover any vague dates before or after the event took place. Dave Peterson says his attorneys at the time, who obviously saw this as a losing battle, suggested the Petersons settle with Disney, Crossfire and the event organizers – for $100. “My son has accrued $80,000 in medical expenses,” Dave Peterson says. “He refused to settle. By Florida bar rules, it’s Owen’s prerogative and his alone to settle or not. Again, by Florida bar rules, the law firm is to abide by that decision.” Instead, the Petersons’ attorneys filed a motion to withdraw as counsel in March 2013, and their motion was granted by Judge Walter Komanski, just weeks before motions for summary judgment by the defendants were scheduled to be heard in April; the Petersons requested extensions while they looked for new attorneys to take the case. Their requests were denied. Summary judgment for all of the defendants was granted on May 13, 2013.

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