California woman files massive lawsuit against Disney for deceptive ‘Magic Key’ practices

A San Francisco Bay-area woman and Disneyland pass holder has filed a lawsuit against the theme parks claiming the entertainment company has engaged in deceptive practices regarding Magic Key passes.

Santa Clara County resident Jenale Nielsen said in her $5 million suit that Disneyland is improperly limiting park capacity for pass holders, adding that even though she bought a $1,399 Dream Key annual pass — the most expensive one offered — she experienced an inordinate number of blockout dates to include weekends after attempting to make a reservation last month.

The lawsuit goes on to claim that “Disney advertised and promised there would be no ‘blockouts’ for Dream Keyholders.”

And though Magic Key pass holders were limited or blocked from making reservations due to Disney’s self-imposed cap on how many pass holders can make reservations to enter parks on a given day, single-day and multi-day tickets were still available for purchase at around $224. As such, Nielsen eventually bought a single-day ticket for the date she wanted to visit, even though she held a Dream Key pass.

“Ms. Nielsen reasonably believed and relied upon Disney’s advertisement and promise to mean that, if Disney had capacity at its Anaheim parks, Ms. Nielsen and her fellow Dream Key pass holders would be allowed to make reservations and visit the parks,” says the lawsuit, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, citing local reports.

The suit was moved to federal court last week because Nielsen lives in California but Walt Disney Parks and Resorts is based in Florida and the lawsuit “concerns more than $5 million,” the paper added. The Los Angeles Times noted that Nielson wants the court to certify her case as a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 3,600 other Dream Key pass holders.

“We have been clear about the terms of the Magic Key product and we know that many of our guests are enjoying the experiences these passes provide,” Disney spokesperson Liz Jaeger told the Los Angeles Times. “We will vigorously defend our position as the case proceeds.”

The Times added: “Magic Key includes four options, ranging in price from $399 per year for Southern California residents to $1,399 for the Dream Key with no block-out days and the greatest flexibility for making reservations. The primary difference between the new program and Disney’s old annual pass is that Magic Key requires a reservation before visiting the park.”

According to the resort website selling the Dream Keys, “Park reservations are subject to availability and are not guaranteed for any specific dates or park.”

Nielsen’s lawsuit alleged that Disney is guilty of breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, concealment, false advertisement, and unfair competition. She is seeking damages and attorneys’ fees. The suit claims the media giant collected more than $5 million in fees selling Dream Keys.

Jon Dougherty


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