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Disney Files Motion to Delay State Hearing After Claiming Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Is ‘Dodging Its Obligations’ to Produce Documents

Disney World

Friday - October 27, 2023: Disney has filed a motion for a 75-day continuance in their state trial versus the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District because the District has not produced vital discovery.

Disney says the District “has been dodging its obligations to produce concededly relevant discovery while rushing consideration of its motion for summary judgment.” They say the District is using a “leapfrog-to-judgment strategy” with the example of the District claiming they had the final draft of the Motion for Summary Judgement before Disney’s motion to dismiss was even decided. According to Disney, the District’s counsel said the Motion for Summary Judgment “would completely take care of this case as a matter of law.”

“Disney shares the District’s interest in resolving this case expeditiously,” the motion of continuance reads. “But speed cannot come at the cost of developing relevant facts. Nor can the District complain about this action’s pace when it — the District — failed to produce a single document for nearly two months following Disney’s requests, broke commitments to agreed-upon deadlines, and remains in possession of discovery that Disney needs to develop its summary judgment opposition. The District’s evasion is particularly inexcusable given that that [sic] the District has conceded, as it must, that certain outstanding discovery is relevant.”

Disney says they provided the District with discovery — which refers to documents and other evidence exchanged between parties — on August 29, 2023.

They requested from the District the identification of “affected property owners,” as well as “specification of whether the District contends that such property owners did not have actual notice of the Contracts.” Other requests include communications with the City of Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista. The requested documents are reminiscent of those Disney has filed a subpoena for from former District Administrator John Classe.

By email on September 30, Disney asked the District to provide deposition dates for Glen Gilzean, Susan Higginbotham, Erin O’Donnell, and Lee Pulham.

On October 3, Disney and the District agreed during a meeting that documents must be provided with adequate time for Disney to review them before deposing four summary judgment declarants and that the depositions must occur significantly before the December 12 hearing.

During a call on October 9, the District promised to provide a date for completion of document production and deposition dates by October 12. They did not do so. During the same call, the District promised to provide supplemental responses to Disney’s interrogatories no later than October 20.

Disney followed up by email on October 13 and 16 but the District did not respond. On October 19, Disney wrote to the District, explaining they would seek a delay of the hearing date because “[w]ithout any assurance that we will receive documents or be able to meaningfully review those documents before taking depositions, it is clear that we will not have the opportunity to integrate this discovery into our summary judgment briefing unless the current hearing date is vacated.”

They continued, “[E]ven if Disney had received documents and deposition dates immediately following our meet and confer calls earlier this month, the time to complete necessary discovery would have already been very tight. Now, however, there is no realistic possibility that Disney could review produced documents, prepare for and conduct depositions, and draft its opposition brief by November 22.”

The District produced 1,209 documents after business hours on October 24. The documents were not from any of the summary judgment declarants or members of the Board.

Disney cites various past decisions in support of their request for a 75-day continuance and notes that once complete, discovery will “shape the record Disney will submit to demonstrate the existence of factual disputes inherent to the District’s claims and the applicability of Disney’s affirmative defenses. The current hearing date deprives Disney of the time needed to compile this record in support of its opposition.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Walt Disney Company initially clashed over the corporation’s opposition to a much-debated and controversial Florida law regarding classroom instruction and discussion on sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools, alongside various other recent state laws and proposals in a similar vein.