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Government Concedes Defeat: Claims Filed Reflect Surrender

Disney Files Counterclaims in Legal Battle with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

Disney Files Counterclaims in Legal Battle with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Disney is doubling down on litigation involving Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that may decide whether it retains the power to control development around its sprawling theme park.

In the case initiated by the board of supervisors picked by DeSantis to oversee Walt Disney World’s special tax district, the entertainment giant on Thursday filed a series of counterclaims, including for breach of contract and violations of the Florida constitution over its due process and rights. It moved for damages and an order forcing the district to comply with the terms of the development agreements.

The counterclaims were filed as part of Disney’s defenses to the suit by the Central Florida Oversight District (CFTOD) accusing the company of illegally stripping the board of its authority. Disney is also suing DeSantis in , accusing him of illegally voiding an agreement that purported to certain powers of its now-dissolved special district back to the company. On Monday, he urged Disney to “drop the lawsuit,” saying he’s “moved on.”

At the heart of the dispute are retaliatory measures taken by the presidential hopeful after Disney publicly opposed the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, which restricts instruction in the classroom on and sexual orientation. In response, DeSantis shepherded a bill granting him the authority to appoint every member of the special tax district’s five-member governing body.

Legal maneuvering followed. The day before the state legislature passed the bill in February reshaping the leadership structure and changing the name of Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District, Disney quietly crafted a new development deal that it said allowed it to retain its development powers. The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District sued, alleging the old board didn’t give proper notice to contest the agreement.

Thursday’s filing accused the CFTOD of breach of contract for challenging its “duty to perform under the contracts, including by declaring them void.” As a of the board’s to comply with the agreements, “Disney has suffered and will continue to suffer damages” and will be “irreparably harmed if the District is allowed to avoid its contractual obligations,” wrote Daniel Petrocelli, a lawyer for the company, in the filing.

Disney seeks an order directing the district’s “specific performance” of the contract, which it said were properly noticed, subject to public hearing and adopted after a vote of the board.

The CFTOD didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

In July, Disney lost a bid to dismiss the suit after a Florida judge rejected the company’s arguments that it was made moot by a state law and that it shouldn’t be allowed to until the other case dealing with the legality of the agreement in federal court is resolved.

Donald Trump, who was indicted for trying to overturn the 2020 election, maintains a strong lead over DeSantis in the Republican primary. His campaign was centered, in part, on proving that he’s willing to take conservative positions on politically charged social issues. In August, a group representing the heads of private companies and former Republican governors filed friend-of-the-court briefs in the federal court case denouncing DeSantis’ retaliatory actions as undemocratic.

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