In December of last year, a $5 million lawsuit was brought against the Disney Parks and Resorts on behalf of Magic Key Holders (the Annual passholders in Disneyland). The lawsuit alleged that “Disneyland deceived its most loyal fan base by artificially limiting theme park capacity and blocking passholders with ‘no blockout’ annual passes from making reservations.”
Disney responded to the suit about a week later, filing for the case’s removal and stating that the company was “clear about the terms of the Magic Key product” and would “vigorously defend [their] position as the case proceeds.” Now, several months later, we finally have a new update about this case!
The Orange County Register has reported that a federal judge has denied Disney’s motion to dismiss the $5 million Magic Key Holder case and will allow the lawsuit to move forward in court. The judge (United States District Court Judge David Carter) wrote, “The court finds that plaintiff has adequately pled facts supporting how a reasonable consumer may be deceived by the advertisement, which states ‘no blockout dates.'”
The Magic Key Program is Disneyland’s Annual Pass system. One passholder — Jenale Nieslen — filed a lawsuit on behalf of all passholders claiming that “the Anaheim theme park misled and deceived its most loyal fans by artificially limiting capacity and restricting reservations.”
There are various tiers of Magic Key passes, and the most expensive one is the Disneyland Dream Key, which cost Nielsen $1,399. This pass should have no blockout dates. However, Disneyland guests are still required to make Park Pass Reservations before they can enter a park, and those reservations can (and do) run out.
Nielsen alleged that Disneyland was allocating far fewer Park Pass Reservations to Magic Key Holders than to single-day park guests, which led to many days of sold-out passes for the annual passholders. Although these aren’t technically “blockout dates,” they are days when Magic Key Holders are not able to visit the parks due to a lack of a reservation. The judge who denied the motion to dismiss the case wrote, “Plaintiff argues that ordinary consumers generally understand blockout dates to be ‘dates when tickets, credits, passes, or rewards cannot be used.’”
So Neilsen is basically arguing that if any Park Pass Reservations are available (even for single-day park guests), they should be open to annual passholders as well.
Disney responded to the lawsuit in early March by trying to have the case dismissed. A judge dismissed 4 of Nielsen’s 6 allegations but has allowed 2 of the allegations to move forward. The 4 allegations that were dismissed include those relating to “claims of false advertising, negligent misrepresentation, legal disclosure, and unfair competition.” The 2 allegations that will move forward include breach of contract and the California consumer protection act.
The Register reported that “Disney lawyers answered the complaint in late April and Nielsen’s attorneys filed an amended complaint on May 10.” Disney still denies each allegation and complaint.
The case will likely come down to 2 points: (1) “whether a Disneyland Dream Key annual pass constitutes a good or service as Nielsen’s lawyers contend or a temporary license as Disney contends” and (2) “the meaning of “blockout dates” and what that definition includes and excludes for passholders and Disneyland.”
Disney has denied that Disneyland blocked out dates to Dream Key passholders, and Neilsen’s lawyers allege that “Disneyland has the power to artificially limit theme park reservations and decide when to make Dream Key passholder reservations available or unavailable.”
Note that the Disney Dream Key and Believe Key are both currently sold out. The Enchant Key and Imagine Key are still available.
We’ll continue to watch for more updates on this case, so keep following DFB for the latest news.