03 January 2011 by By MARYCLAIRE DALE - The Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA -- A Pennsylvania woman who claims Donald Duck groped her at Disney's Epcot theme park can have her day in court, a federal judge has ruled.
Disney must defend April Magolon's claims that the character grabbed her breast as she held her child at the Walt Disney World park and then joked about it.
Magolon, 27, of Upper Darby, claims the May 2008 encounter left her with post-traumatic stress in the form of nightmares, digestive problems and other permanent injuries.
Her lawsuit also charges that Disney parks have a history of fondling complaints involving workers, and that that Disney has "condoned" their actions, putting profits over public safety.
In court papers, the defense argued that Magolon sued the wrong Disney corporate entity, and asked the judge to dismiss the suit or move it to Florida, where the encounter took place.
But U.S. District Judge John R. Padova refused, saying Magolon can proceed in Pennsylvania.
"She, her fiance (who was a witness to the alleged assault), and her treating doctors are all located in Pennsylvania," Padova wrote in a Dec. 29 ruling.
Disney also has greater resources to try the case in Pennsylvania than Magolon does to try it in Florida, he said.
Magolon does not have a listed number, and lawyers for her and for Disney did not immediately return calls for comment Monday on the ruling.
According to Magolon's suit, authorities in Florida received 24 related complaints in the week after a Walt Disney World employee dressed as "Tigger" was charged with molesting a 13-year-old girl and her mother in 2004. At least some were deemed credible and investigated by police, the suit said.
The man playing "Tigger" was later acquitted of criminal wrongdoing, after his lawyer donned the Tigger costume in court and argued that his client couldn't see much.
On the flip side, a 60-year-old Pennsylvania man was convicted last year of groping a woman in a Minnie Mouse costume at Walt Disney World.
John William Moyer, of Cressona, insisted he was innocent. But a Florida judge sentenced him to probation, community service and $1,000 court costs for misdemeanor battery.
The victim said she had to do everything possible to keep Moyer's hands off her breasts.