Family Of Special Needs Child Awarded $15,000 In Denver Aquarium Lawsuit

By Tom Mustin

DENVER (CBS4) – Abby Galdamez is hoping that change is on the horizon after winning a discrimination lawsuit against Landry’s Downtown Aquarium.

“It’s not a victory just for Willie, but people like Willie, ” she told CBS4’s Tom Mustin.

Abby’s 10-year-old son Willie has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair.

CBS4's Tom Mustin interviews Abby and her son Willie (credit: CBS)

CBS4’s Tom Mustin interviews Abby and her son Willie (credit: CBS)

In 2014, Abby had taken Willie to the aquarium. They waited outside in the snow for 45 minutes to visit the 4D theatre ride. Abby says when they got to 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 were we going to do with ‘this.’ I gestured and said, ‘This… my son?’ She said ‘Yes, that.’ I said, ‘We’re going to take him in.’ She said, ‘No you can’t.’”

Abby says she’s raised her son to believe he can do anything any other child can do.

Two weeks ago in Denver County Court, Abby talked about the humiliation Willie felt after being turned away.

Abby Galdamez with Willie. (credit: CBS)

Abby Galdamez with Willie. (credit: CBS)

“For the ticket accountant to decipher he wasn’t allowed to do that, was a huge slap in the face.” she said.

The aquarium gave Abby a refund but never returned her calls and emails.

Last week, a judge awarded the family $15,000 for “outrageous conduct”- saying the ticket counter’s actions were “intolerable in a civilized community.”

“I got chills. We were really intimidated by the whole scenario. Their communication really kind of put us under the gun and it felt like we were brushed off.”

Abby says all she ever wanted was an apology- something that to this day she hasn’t received.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Now she hoping Landry’s will change their policies, and realize that children with disabilities, like Willie, deserve respect.

“He’s just as great as all the rest of the kids in this world. He’s just as loved and just as valued as the rest of them are.”

Abby says she’s still waiting for Landry’s to change their policies toward the disabled community. She also says she will not consider the case closed until she receives an apology.

Keith Beitler, SVP, COO Specialty Restaurant, Theme Park Divisions & International Franchising of Landry’s, Inc. released this statement: “Unfortunately, we believe the Court made a decision in this case that was not one based on the facts or law. We followed the ride manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure the safety of all our guests, which is extremely important to us. We are appealing the decision because we feel confident that we should prevail on the merits of this case.”

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. Amy Miller says:

    Will avoid the aquarium as an attraction hence forward!

  2. Robert Gift, EMT says:

    Bravo Abby and Willie for getting the verbal offense corrected. Thank you, Judge.
    Would the wheelchair be a problem? Why?

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