Mother Files Lawsuit Against Aquarium For Discrimination

By Tom Mustin

DENVER (CBS4)– A mother says she’s fighting for her son and that has prompted a lawsuit against a popular attraction in Denver. Abby Galdamez has filed a lawsuit against the Downtown Aquarium for discrimination and outrageous conduct.

Galdamez left the Denver courtroom Wednesday with her son Willie, still seeking justice

“Nothing to this day. No apology. No please come back. Nothing,” she told CBS4’s Tom Mustin.

CBS4's Tom Mustin interviews Abby Galdamez with Willie. (credit: CBS)

CBS4’s Tom Mustin interviews Abby Galdamez with Willie. (credit: CBS)

Willie is 10 years old. He has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. His family is suing Landry’s Downtown Aquarium for discrimination and outrageous conduct.

In April 2014, Abby had taken Willie to the aquarium. They waited outside in the snow for 45 minutes to visit the 4-D theatre ride. Abby says when they arrived at the front of the line, the ticket person, who no longer works for the company, uttered offensive remarks and denied them access.

“She asked what we were going to do with ‘this.’ And I clarified and I pointed to ‘this,’ my son and she said, ‘Yeah, that.’

Abby said her son has ridden horses and has gone on rollercoasters.

She was stunned,”Words were exchanged, I was furious. And I turned around and sought compassion and intervention from management. Nothing was given.”

The aquarium gave Abby a refund but would not return her calls or emails. Landry’s would not comment on camera, but admits Willie should have been allowed inside.They call the case a “misunderstanding.”

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Now a judge will decide who’s right.

Abby said her goal is to send a message that people with disabilities deserve respect, and companies that fail to comply will be held accountable.

“For equality, Willie being allowed to do what the rest of the public is allowed to do, and to further their understanding that it’s not ok to continually treat people this way.”

The Galdamez family is seeking monetary damages.

Abby Galdamez with Willie. (credit: CBS)

Abby Galdamez with Willie. (credit: CBS)

Judge Clarisse Gonzales is deliberating the case. Attorneys expect her to make a decision within the next week.

Landry’s released this statement in regards to the lawsuit: “Downtown Aquarium is committed to providing an inclusive environment free from unlawful discrimination, and we encourage everyone to enjoy all of our amusement attractions. While the 4-D theatre is accessible to wheelchairs, due to limited space, a rider must transfer to a seat in the ride, and the wheelchair must be temporarily placed outside the theatre during the course of the movie to prevent the wheelchair from becoming a safety hazard in the event an emergency evacuation becomes necessary. This policy is in accordance with manufacturer guidelines. When we attempted to verbally explain the policy, the family misunderstood our ride operator, became irate, refused to listen, received a refund and immediately left. Unfortunately, the family expressed their frustration by filing first a complaint with the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, Colorado Civil Rights Division and then a lawsuit. The Colorado Civil Rights Division determined that there WAS NO DISCRIMINATION and dismissed the complaint. At the encouragement of a lawyer, a lawsuit was then filed and the lawyer demanded tens of thousands of dollars all because we refused to compromise the safety of our guests. This is a no win situation, but certainly not one where we should have acceded to the demands of the lawyer to avoid the media attention. We are hopeful the Court will agree we did nothing wrong.”

-Attributed to Keith Beitler, SVP, COO Specialty Restaurant, Theme Park Divisions & International Franchising of Landry’s, Inc.

Tom Mustin is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor. He has been with CBS4 since 2002, and is always looking for great story ideas. Connect with Tom on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @TomCBS4.

Comments

One Comment

  1. Jeremy Smith says:

    Shameful, but the mother/family isn’t owed a dime. “Abby says when they arrived at the front of the line, the ticket person, who no longer works for the company, uttered offensive remarks and denied them access.” If its common practice with this company to discriminate, i can see it being a huge issue.. but the person who made the comments did it OUTSIDE company policy and no longer works for the business. What “monetary” damages did they suffer?

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