California Theme Parks Considering Lawsuits to Reopen

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California Theme Parks Considering Lawsuits to Reopen
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The COVID-19 pandemic affected many industries, but perhaps none more so than the theme park industry. The California Attractions and Parks Association (CAPA) including Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Legoland, Knott’s Berry Farm, and more have been engaged in intense discussion over the state’s restrictive reopening guidelines.

These guidelines were recently announced by California Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly on behalf of California Governor Gavin Newsom, and they would prohibit theme parks from reopening until the county of each respective park reaches the least-restrictive reopening tier.

Tens of thousands of workers are out of a job until the theme parks reopen, likely not until sometime in 2021.

It is predicted that reaching the least-restrictive reopening tier in these counties is unlikely to occur until well into 2021 at the earliest. Unfortunately, this decision to make theme parks the last industry to reopen leaves tens of thousands of workers out of a job until then, unless they are able to find another job in an economic climate where layoffs have become the order of the day across many industries and hiring is at something of a standstill.

Kurt Stocks, president of Legoland California, criticizes the theme park’s reopening guidelines as “grossly inconsistent”.

The main criticisms revolving around these reopening guidelines is that they do not appear to be based on scientific evidence, and do not compare with the guidelines given to similar industries, such as zoos and museums. He argues that the State of California should treat them the same way they treat businesses with a similar set-up and method of operation.

Disneyland President Ken Potrock points out that their parks have instituted generous safety policies to protect guests and employees, and that other Disneyland locations around the world have not been linked to any coronavirus outbreaks. He believes that the state’s restrictive theme park reopening guidelines are based on “what-ifs” rather than facts, and has expressed concern over the state’s lack of apparent care for laid-off employees.

CAPA executive director Erin Guerrero announced that a lawsuit against Gov. Gavin Newsom is under consideration.

The CAPA parks have little power to affect their current and future situation under California’s new reopening guidelines. While discussions for solutions have been in the works since the start of the pandemic, at this point it seems many of the parks feel their only option is to turn to legal recourse.

While CAPA and park officials stress their desire to work with the State of California regarding safe and economically acceptable reopening guidelines, efforts at finding a compromise seem to be dwindling. Potrock is less trusting of the state at this point, claiming the newly released guidelines are “arbitrary” and that the state “knows [the guidelines] are unworkable”.

If the state is unwilling to engage in continuing discussions with CAPA over theme park reopening, a lawsuit seems imminent.

With so many big-name theme parks involved in the issue, all of which seem considerably unhappy with the state’s reopening guidelines, a lawsuit is looking like a very real possibility. While CAPA has expressed a continuing desire to work with the state and seek some sort of compromise, if a compromise does not come soon, the chance of a resolution without litigation seems almost impossible.

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