A Bolivar woman and her daughter are among a group of plaintiffs from Allegheny and Westmoreland counties who are suing Palace Entertainment and its three Pittsburgh-area amusement parks, including Idlewild and Soakzone in Ligonier, in the U.S. District Court for Western Pennsylvania.
They say Newport Beach, Calif.-based Palace and its subsidiaries, including Idlewild, Sandcastle in West Homestead and Kennywood in West Mifflin and Duquesne, violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and Pennsylvania health restrictions by mandating facial coverings — masks — without making any exceptions.
Janine Wood, of Bolivar, is listed as lead plaintiff. She is described in court filings made Friday as “parent and natural guardian of her minor child, identified as H.W., who is disabled and suffers from autism, ADHD (and) anxiety disorder, and has a diagnosis of an intellectual disability.”
The legal filing goes on to state that “plaintiffs are individuals with disabilities within the meaning of the ADA because they have physical and mental impairments that substantially limit one or more of their major life activities and systems,” or, in Janine Wood’s case, someone associated with such individuals.
The argument is being pressed by Pittsburgh attorney Thomas B. Anderson, who also is suing the Giant Eagle supermarket chain over a similar claim, that uniform requirements are imposed “that require all guests to wear masks even if they are disabled and they cannot wear a mask due to their medical conditions.”
The claim against Giant Eagle, also before the federal district court in Pittsburgh, covers alleged problems at several of its stores, including, according to Anderson at least one or two complaints against the Giant Eagle store along Ben Franklin Road South in White Township.
And like Giant Eagle, Palace and its parks aren’t commenting on the lawsuit but is pointing to its requirements for patrons. At Kennywood, spokesman Nick Paradise said, “as per company policy, we’re not able to comment on any pending litigation.”
On the Kennywood website, Palace Entertainment stated that, “in keeping with the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and in following with orders from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, all guests and team members (park employees) are required to wear facial coverings while at Kennywood. The only exception is for children younger than age 3.”
However, as pointed out in the court papers, state regulations also provide an exception for “individuals who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition … including those with respiratory issues that impede breathing, mental health condition, or disability.”
Similar restrictions exist for Sandcastle and Idlewild where, according to the court filing, Janine Wood and her daughter tried to use season passes they had purchased for admission on Tuesday.
“Janine Wood explained that her daughter cannot wear a mask because of her autism,” Anderson’s filing stated. “Idlewild security guards prevented entry and screamed at the child causing her to have a mental breakdown and to break out in hives due to anxiety.”
As the court filing continued, “H.W. (the daughter) became emotionally overwhelmed and said she just wanted to leave because of Idlewild’s ‘bullies.’ She said she just wanted to die and could not stop crying. Idlewild’s staff stood their ground and continued to spout the company’s illegal policy.”
Anderson wrote that a security guard at the Ligonier park told Janine Wood that Idlewild is private property so it could enforce its own rules.
The other plaintiffs are from Irwin, Westmoreland County, and Verona and Kennedy Township in Allegheny County. Anderson said the plaintiffs “demand judgment against Idlewild (and the other Palace parks), including compensatory and punitive damages and such other relief as this court deems proper and just.”