Tuesday, December 17, 2002
Court of Appeal Reinstates Patron’s Racial Bias Claim Against Magic Mountain Amusement Park
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts
A claim that the proprietor of the Magic Mountain amusement park discriminated against an African American customer by expelling him for having cut in line with members of his family has been reinstated yesterday by this district’s Court of Appeal.
Justice Norman Epstein, writing for Div. Four, cited a survey showing that African Americans are eight times as likely to be thrown out of the park for cutting in line than Caucasians. The survey, combined with the testimony of the plaintiff and the other members of his party, is sufficient evidence for Danny Everett to go to trial on his claim that his right to equal services under the Unruh Civil Rights Act was violated, the justice said.
Epstein’s opinion was filed Nov. 14 and certified yesterday for publication.
Everett claims that he was visiting the park on Sept. 26, 1998 with his wife, sister-in-law, and daughter, as well as two of his daughter’s friends. The three girls were all under 12 years old.
Everett alleges that he and his sister-in-law walked ahead of his wife and the girls in order to get in line for the Colossus ride. Since he and his sister-in-law were halfway through the line before the others caught up, he motioned to them and stepped about 10 feet out of line, he said in his complaint, before an employee came up and said he was not allowed to cut in line.
Everett claims that he was pulled out of line, and when he asked to speak to a supervisor, he was told he would have to leave the park because he violated its line cutting policy. The policy says that members of a group or family may join other members who are already in line only for specified reasons, such as when children under 12 years of age are joining the adult members of the party, when one person has left the line to use a restroom, or when the “Line Patrol Officer” authorizes an exception.
A few seconds after he was asked to leave, Everett alleges, his wife and the girls exited the ride. When he offered to have other patrons vouch for the fact he was in line, he claims, a supervisor told the security guards to remove him and he was jumped, thrown to the ground, and kicked before being chained to a bench where he was held under citizen’s arrest for two hours and taunted by other employees.
He was charged with battery on a security guard, trespass, and obstructing a business. A jury acquitted him of the battery; the other charges were dismissed after jurors deadlocked.
Everett and the two women sued for battery, assault, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violation of the Unruh Act. A defense motion for summary adjudication was denied as to malicious prosecution but granted as to the Unruh Act by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Howard J. Schwab.
The survey presented in opposition to the motion, Epstein noted, shows that African Americans, who made up less that eight percent of the park’s guests, accounted for more than 41 percent of those removed for line cutting in 1997 and more than 55 percent in 1998. They also made up a disproportionate number of all patrons arrested in the park, the survey showed.
The use of statistical evidence tending to show disparate treatment based on race is a well-established means of showing an inference of discrimination, Epstein said, and is sufficient to avoid summary adjudication.
The case is Everett v. Superior Court, B157432.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company