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Walt Disney faces $200,000 lawsuit in alleged Donald Duck groping case

12 August 2010 by Walter Pacheco, Orlando Sentinel

Walt Disney World is facing a federal lawsuit seeking more than $200,000 in damages after a Pennsylvania woman claimed a person in a Donald Duck costume groped her breast two years ago, court records show.

April Magolon said her family was visiting Epcot in May 2008 when she approached Donald Duck for an autograph, according to the lawsuit.

She said that instead of an autograph from the person in the iconic fuzzy white costume with a blue and yellow sailor shirt and hat, the person performed a "physically menacing act," the lawsuit says.

"Donald Duck proceeded to grab [Magolon's] breast and molest her and then made gestures making a joke indicating he had done something wrong," the lawsuit states. "[Disney] has engaged in a practice of placing corporate profits over public safety while attempting to cover up continuing, long-standing similar prior incidents."

Attempts to reach Magolon on Thursday were unsuccessful. Her attorney did not respond to e-mails or a phone call.

Disney spokesman Bryan Malenius said Thursday that "we've now seen plaintiff's complaint and will respond appropriately in court."

The spokesman said he could not say who was in the Donald Duck costume or provide any additional information.

Magolon is suing Disney for negligence, battery, negligent infliction of emotional distress and intentional and reckless infliction of emotional distress.

She is seeking more than $50,000 in damages for each count.

She has suffered "severe physical injury, emotional anguish and distress," according to the complaint. She also says the incident has caused acute anxiety, headaches, nightmares and flashbacks, among other emotional and physical ailments.

Her attorney originally had filed the civil lawsuit in Pennsylvania's Court of Common Pleas in December 2009, but court documents show the case was transferred to Philadelphia's federal court after a request from the entertainment company to move it there.

Malenius could not answer why Disney officials asked to transfer the case to federal court.

In addition to the allegations, the lawsuit also states the Orange County Sheriff's Office has received 24 complaints alleging similar acts by costumed characters since 2004.

A Sheriff's Office spokesman said he could not confirm those complaints but said sex-crimes investigators are working on providing an official count.

Sheriff's Office officials said Thursday that Magolon never filed a complaint against Disney about the incident.

The theme park faced a media blitz in 2004 when a person dressed as Tigger was accused of groping a 13-year-old girl and her mother at Magic Kingdom's Mickey's Toontown Fair.

Deputies arrested Michael C. Chartrand on charges of lewd and lascivious molestation of a child and battery; however, a jury cleared the man of any wrongdoing.


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