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Campbell v. Universal City Dev. Partners

No. 22-10646, 2023
United States Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit
July 7, 2023

Keywords: amusement ride eligibility criteria, discrimination, manufacturer compliance, state law, public accommodation, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), disability, limb difference, risk assessment, supremacy clause.


Dylan Campbell wanted to enjoy the Krakatua Aqua Coaster at Universal’s Volcano Bay waterpark. He was not allowed on the ride by the ride operator and was told he was unable to ride safely because he had only one hand. The Florida District Court ruled in favor of the water park, agreeing with Universal that state ride mandates were “necessary” as used in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Campbell appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court ruled that following state law did not qualify as “necessary” under 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(i) of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).

Specifically, the 11th Circuit Court ruled that manufacturer-imposed safety requirements were “necessary” only when they were related to actual health and safety risks of guests. The Circuit Court rejected the District Court’s reasons for refusing to permit Campbell on the ride. The case was vacated and remanded back to the lower District Court, meaning the Circuit Court overruled the lower court.

Facts of the Case

Dylan Campbell was born without a right forearm or right hand, and he does not use a prosthetic (artificial limb). When Mr. Campbell visited Universal’s Volcano Bay waterpark with his family, he was not allowed to ride the Krakatua Aqua Coaster, a waterslide version of a rollercoaster, because he did not have two grasping hands.

Campbell was turned away due to rider eligibility requirements created by the ride’s manufacturer, ProSlide.  ProSlide determined the eligibility requirements based on hazard (or safety) analyses conducted by ProSlide and RAMS Consultants. These analyses found no specific risks for anyone with a limb difference or other physical disability. Universal created a “Rider Eligibility Chart” allowing people with many limb differences to ride.

However, ProSlide did not want to take on the risks of allowing riders with one arm or prosthetic limbs, even if there was no risk found. As a result, when Volcano Bay opened to the public, people like Campbell – without two hands – were not allowed to ride the Aqua Coaster (or certain other rides).

Issues of the Case

Was Universal’s policy against people with limb differences “necessary” and therefore allowed under Title III of the ADA?

Arguments and Analysis

Whether Universal’s discrimination against Campbell based on manufacturer’s recommendations was “necessary” and therefore allowed under Title III of the ADA.

The lower court noted that the ADA standard against discriminatory eligibility criteria had an exception for “necessary” requirements. “Necessary” means that Universal believed they needed the requirements to prevent harm or danger. The lower court ruled that compliance with Florida law requiring parks to follow industry standards and comply with manufacturer recommendations was “necessary” under the ADA.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed the case and decided that the “necessary” exemption included valid safety-related reasons. Universal’s defense was they had to comply with state law. However, the Court ruled that Universal’s justification to exclude Campbell due to state law was wrong.

A state law that provides less disability rights protection than the ADA to people with disabilities is not allowed under the ADA.

The Court found Universal’s argument that it was “necessary”, for safety reasons, to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations because manufacturers had a better understanding in identifying safety risks was not persuasive. The fact that a manufacturer had more experience did not mean that its safety recommendations were “necessary” when they were not based on actual risks, and the product safety record showed no “actual risks” to people without two hands.

The 11th Circuit Court ruled that Universal did not show that the term “necessary” included administrative efficiency or uniformity, meaning that the policy was biased toward people with a limb difference. Universal failed to show a single specific risk to anyone with any type of limb difference.


The Court found that following a state law did not qualify as “necessary” under subsection (b)(2)(A)(i) of the Federal ADA and Universal used a discriminatory eligibility rule that it incorrectly based on the ADA.

The Court also ruled that manufacturer-imposed safety requirements were “necessary” and were exempt from the ADA only if there are actual risks to the health and safety of guests.

The Court also rejected Universal’s argument that it needed to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and discriminate because of administrative feasibility and uniformity, meaning that it could not evaluate the safety of all its rides. The Court said administrative feasibility and uniformity were not necessary and did not exempt Universal from the requirements of the ADA.



These materials do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon in any individual case. Please consult an attorney licensed in your state for legal advice and/or representation. These materials were prepared by the legal research staff of the Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University in partnership with the Southeast ADA Center to highlight legal and policy developments relevant to civil rights protections and the impact of court decisions in the Southeast Region under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These materials are based on federal disability rights laws and court decisions in effect at the time of publication. Federal and state disability rights law can change at any time.  In addition, state and local laws and regulations may provide different or additional protections. Materials are intended solely as informal guidance, and are neither a determination of your legal rights nor responsibilities under the ADA or other federal, state, and local laws, nor binding on any agency with enforcement responsibility under the ADA. The accuracy of any information contained herein is not warranted. Any links to external websites are provided as a courtesy and are not intended to nor do they constitute an endorsement of the linked materials.