Walt Disney Parks & Resorts U.S. Inc. is the Walt Disney Co. entity (NYSE: DIS), named in a suit filed by the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. The Walt Disney Co. has asked a court to dismiss the case.
A report by Deadline said that the theme park giant filed a motion to Orange County courts calling the case moot. The lawsuit would have dissolved two land development agreements/contracts signed in early February.
This report, which contains a link to a filing dated May 16th, shows that Disney is using the law signed by Florida Governor Rick Scott. Ron DeSantis, shortly after the lawsuit had been filed, was cited as the reason why the court should dismiss the case.
The lawsuit, filed by the district on May 1, makes several claims. It alleges that Disney "cobbled" together the controversial agreements which appeared to strip district's board of land-development powers. This angered both the board and DeSantis. The lawsuit discussed alleged legal basis of the board's April 26 decision to declare the Disney agreements null.
Disney's latest filing makes the point after DeSantis signed a new state law on May 5, which essentially wiped out the agreements.
Four days after the board brought this lawsuit, the Governor signed the legislation that he had outlined, effectively nullifying the contracts under state law, by prohibiting "the board from complying with the contract terms". This legislation makes plaintiff's case moot, because any order that this court might issue -- either in favor of the plaintiff or defendant -- is rendered legally irrelevant.
Disney's motion stated that even if the court rejected the board's claim on its merits, and agreed with Disney that the contract complied to any procedural or substantive requirements of the state law, it would still prohibit the board from complying under the new statute.
Disney's motion stated that, "even if the court found the board's objections valid, any order in this regard would be meaningless, because the contracts are already void under the state's new statute," "In summary, any declaration regarding the contracts' enforceability or voidness -- or their validity -- would only be a advisory opinion without real-world consequences."
The motion also asks that the court put the case on hold until Disney's lawsuit against DeSantis, the district and others is resolved, as the two lawsuits already overlap.
Florida law, on the other hand, requires the court to stay the litigation until Disney's federal case is resolved. Disney's federal action, which was filed and served earlier by Disney and involves issues that are substantially similar, is currently pending and is between the same parties. Under these circumstances, the controlling precedents state that this court has no discretion to continue with this case. Disney regrets being forced to litigate this issue anywhere. However, the federal action would be the best place to hear the parties' dispute first.
Executives from Disney, Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, and DeSantis’ office were not available for comment.
This is just the latest chapter of the fight between DeSantis, Disney and DeSantis that has lasted for a year.
The former Reedy Creek Improvement District, a 39-square mile governing jurisdiction with a special taxing district that was created in 1968 to govern Walt Disney World Resort land, had the same authority and responsibilities as a county. Central Florida Tourism Oversight District replaced the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Its board is made up of governor-appointed members.
Walt Disney World, the largest employer in Orlando, is owned by The Walt Disney Co. (NYSE:DIS). It has four theme parks located locally: Magic Kingdom. Epcot. Animal Kingdom.
Walt Disney World is the number one visitor attraction in Orlando. More than 50 millions people have passed through its gates over the past few years, many of them repeat visitors.
Disney owns Blizzard Bay and Typhoon Lagoon as well as themed hotels, golf clubs, timeshare properties and a residential area called Golden Oak at Walt Disney World Resort. It also has ESPN Wide World of Sports, Disney Springs and a number of themed hotels.