Judge rules Disney suit should be tried in Fla.

CONCORD – A Merrimack woman’s lawsuit against Walt Disney World should be tried in Florida, a U.S. District Court judge has ruled.

Megan Slattery filed suit against the company this summer on behalf of her late husband, Sean Slattery, who drowned last year after getting drunk and falling off a pier into the Grand Lagoon outside Disney’s Grand Floridian Hotel.

Slattery charges the pier was unsafe, and that Disney employees over-served her husband alcohol and failed to take other steps that would have prevented his death.

Sean Slattery taught social studies at Alvirne High School for six years. He was a Nashua native and third-generation teacher, having followed his mother and grandmother into the profession. He left four children. The suit seeks $10 million to compensate for his death.

The suit gives the following account of the night of April 24, 2002, when the family was vacationing at Disney World.

Sean Slattery got drunk during dinner at the Grand Floridian Hotel, and he left the restaurant after the couple argued.

A Disney security officer spotted him later in the hotel, and noticed he seemed disoriented. The officer asked Slattery to sit down, saying he would get help and come back.

The officer left to find the manager, but Slattery was gone when he returned, and the officer continued on his rounds. Slattery, meanwhile, had walked out to the end of a pier, and fallen into the Grand Lagoon.

The suit charges that the pier was inherently dangerous, lacking a guardrail, lighting, warning signs, or a ladder to allow people to climb out of the water. The suit charges the pier “constituted a trap for patrons who had been over-served alcohol by Disney’s wait staff.”

The suit also charges the security guard should have stayed with Slattery and used his radio to get help, and that Disney fails to properly train its staff.

In a ruling issued late Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Steven McAuliffe rejected Disney World’s argument that the case should be dismissed outright, but agreed that it made more sense to try it in Florida.

McAuliffe didn’t rule on whether New Hampshire courts have legal jurisdiction over Disney World, but simply concluded that it made more sense to move the case.

All potential witnesses, with the exception of Megan Slattery, live and work in Florida, McAuliffe noted. Various documents and records relevant to the case also are located there, and a Florida jury could be brought to tour the pier, he wrote.

Furthermore, McAuliffe wrote, the lawsuit raises issues concerning the provisions and enforcement of Orlando, Fla., building codes, which are of more concern to the people of Florida.