The Truth Behind the Water Slide “Wedgie” Lawsuit

October 13 2023 | Personal Injury Lawyer Blog
  • The truth behind the waterslide wedgie lawsuit

    Victim Shaming in Personal Injury Lawsuits

    It’s the lawsuit heard ‘round the world – Disney World, that is.

    A woman is suing Disney World for injuries she sustained on a water slide at Typhoon Lagoon waterpark in Florida. Media outlets are touting it as the “wedgie” lawsuit because of the injuries cited in the case. While the name certainly generates a stir, these headlines fail to convey the gravity of the situation. The “wedgie” lawsuit isn’t about a bathing suit faux paus or mild discomfort. The woman on the Disney World slide was severely injured, suffering from lacerations and internal organ damage. The downplaying of the lawsuit and injuries the woman sustained are misleading at best, and downright harmful at worst.

    This waterpark injury case is just one of many in a trend towards stigmatizing victims, and it rewards the companies and individuals who harm them. In this article, we’ll explore the facts of the case, how sensationalized headlines can direct the public’s attitude toward personal injury claims, and why rhetoric surrounding cases such as these are detrimental to injury victims.


    Turmoil at Typhoon Lagoon

    A lawsuit filed in Orange County, Florida alleges Emma McGuinness sustained serious injuries due to an attraction in Disney World’s Typhoon Lagoon waterpark. Mrs. McGuinness was visiting the park to celebrate her 30th birthday with loved ones. She, her mother, and her daughter all rode the Humunga Kowabunga, three side-by-side slides with a near-vertical five-story drop. The attraction, which is the largest and fastest in the park, sends riders down an enclosed slide at an adrenalin-pumping 40 miles per hour before propelling them into a pool of water.

    The ride does not provide innertubes, mats, or other safety gear. Riders go down the enclosed slide solo and are told to cross their legs at their ankles to avoid injury. Mrs. McGuinness followed the instructions as directed. However, on the way down the slide, she traveled at such an extreme rate of speed that she became airborne. She was then slammed into the side of the slide’s enclosed wall with enough force that her ankles became uncrossed. Finally, her body came crashing out of the other end of the slide and into the standing water in the pool.

    According to the lawsuit, “the slide caused [her] clothing to be painfully forced between her legs and for water to be violently forced inside her. She experienced immediate and severe pain internally and, as she stood up, blood began rushing from between her legs.” She was taken by ambulance to a hospital before being transferred to another hospital better suited to handle the gynecologic nature of her injuries. The lawsuit further states that Mrs. McGuinness suffered from damage to her internal organs, as well as “severe vaginal lacerations”. Her cuts were deep enough to cause her bowel to protrude from her abdomen.


    Waterpark Safety

    The lawsuit alleges that, while certain safety precautions were in place, riders were not told why they needed to cross their ankles. Further, it claims that Disney World failed to communicate the full extent of potential dangers associated with the ride, and that Mrs. McGuinness would not have gone down the slide had she known the risks. Finally, they contend that the design of the slide is inherently flawed and does not do enough to protect riders or guests from injury. The extent of the injuries noted in the lawsuit are a far cry from the “wedgie” narrative that has been circulated. However, many of the details regarding Mrs. McGuinness’ injuries are buried under sensationalized headlines, if not eliminated altogether.


    A Pattern of Misrepresentation

    This isn’t the first time a victim filing a personal injury claim has had their experience downplayed or ridiculed. The McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit is an infamous example of how the facts in a case can be warped to benefit the negligent party. The woman at the center of the personal injury claim, 79-year-old Stella Liebeck, was dragged through the news and made a punchline for late night comedians. Headlines claimed she was suing the franchise after she spilled coffee on herself. The 1992 case gained widespread media attention throughout the world, with ABC News going as far as calling it the “poster child of excessive lawsuits”. She was portrayed as a woman suing a corporation for a quick buck over her own careless actions.

    In reality, McDonald’s served Mrs. Liebeck coffee that was far above the temperature that is considered safe for consumption, causing catastrophic harm. Company policy required drinks to be served at 180-190 degrees Fahrenheit – roughly 40 degrees higher than coffee served at other companies. When the plaintiff spilled coffee in her lap, she sustained third-degree burns to six percent of her body and lesser burns to 16% of her body. In a matter of seconds, the skin on her thighs and genitals melted away, leaving exposed muscle and fatty tissue. She went into shock and was rushed to the hospital. For eight days, she underwent grueling skin grafts and lost nearly 20% of her body weight. At the end of her stay, she weighed only 83 pounds, required extensive care, and was left disabled.

    Despite her harrowing experience and lengthy recovery time, Liebeck only sought $20,000 from McDonald’s – enough to cover her past and future medical expenses. She also wanted the company to make policy changes and serve their coffee at safer temperatures. However, McDonald’s refused, offering a measly $800. The case proceeded to trial, where jurors awarded her $200,000 in compensatory damages and $2.7 million in punitive damages. However, the judge deemed Liebeck partially responsible and reduced the compensatory damages to $160,000 and the punitive damages to $480,000. Liebeck and McDonald’s later went on to settle for a confidential amount, which was said to be less than $500,000 total.


    Profit Over People

    To this day, despite being aware of the dangers of their policies, McDonald’s continues to serve its coffee at temperatures that cause serious injuries. The company has faced countless lawsuits due to their coffee temperatures, with hundreds coming forward with experiences that are eerily similar to Mrs. Liebeck’s. However, for a corporation as large as McDonald’s, settlements paid in serious burn lawsuits are a drop in the bucket compared to their daily revenue. The scalding temperature allows them to offer coffee for longer periods of time and sell more product, increasing profits. Thus, consumers pay the price for corporate negligence.

    Companies such as Disney and McDonald’s rake in billions of dollars each year. The Walt Disney Company announced an astounding 82.7 billion dollars in revenue in 2022 alone – a jump in over 15 billion from the previous year. In stark contrast, the woman at the center of the “wedgie” suit has asked for $50,000 in compensation for her medical bills and pain and suffering. After two hospital trips, significant internal damage to her organs, and the mental anguish she has endured, the request for compensation becomes much more reasonable. The headlines that allude to this injury as a “wedgie” are clearly inaccurate and misleading.

    Damages are intended to dissuade wrongdoers from actions that could injure or kill others. When corporations and negligent parties aren’t held responsible, the dangerous behavior typically continues – especially if it influences revenue. We do a disservice to victims when we allow billionaire companies to profit from dangerous policies. By holding negligent parties accountable through legal action, we can potentially help prevent the suffering that these individuals had to deal with from happening to another victim.


    The Dangers of “Frivolous Lawsuit” Dialogues

    It’s true – not all lawsuits are equal or legitimate. While there will always be those who wish to abuse the power of the legal system in search of a big payout, these instances are few and far between, and are rarely successful in a court of law. Far more common are actual, legitimate injury claims from victims who are suffering. They don’t seek compensation out of greed; rather, they need to be able to pay their medical bills, provide for their families, and rebuild a life that has been taken from them.

    Perpetuating negative narratives around legitimate personal injury claims only causes further harm to those who are already suffering. When organizations and the media portray injured victims as selfish or unreasonable, public opinion sways in favor of the very corporations who need to be held responsible for reckless behavior. It also stigmatizes the legal process and makes those who have been harmed more hesitant to reach out for legal advice in fear of being mocked. These corporations tend to be aware of the dangerous activities and processes that are happening within their business, and they have a duty to either remedy these activities or face the consequences.

    As a personal injury firm who has been active in Kentucky and Tennessee for over 35 years, we’ve seen how corporations cut corners for the sake of profit. Hughes & Coleman has decades of experience in litigating against companies who put lives at risk for their own benefit. While details are still emerging in the case between Mrs. McGuinness and Disney, it is clear that the narrative around the plaintiff’s injuries has been misconstrued.


    A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help

    If you’ve been harmed due to negligence and fear that hiring an attorney will cause backlash, know that our team fights diligently for each of our clients. When you’ve been hurt, you deserve to have someone in your corner who not only believes your story, but also recognizes your anguish. Hughes & Coleman knows how to handle insurance companies who dismiss your pain. We’ll stand with you against those who wish to minimize your suffering, and we’ll work tirelessly to get the best outcome possible. Call us today at 800-800-4600 for a free consultation.



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