Disney Files Another Suit Against DeSantis’ Board Seeking Damages From Feud While Gov. Tries To ‘Move On’


Disney filed a counterclaim in state court Thursday against the board appointed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to oversee Walt Disney World’s special district, doubling down on the company’s ongoing feud with DeSantis and his appointees days after the governor said he was trying to “move on” from the controversy.

Key Facts

Disney filed the new counterclaim alleging wrongdoing by the board of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and asking the court to award Disney damages, after months of back-and-forth between the two parties in court as Florida seeks to strip the entertainment behemoth of its authority over its land.

The lawsuits and counter-suits date back to May, when, after Disney sued DeSantis and the board in federal court, the board sued Disney in state court asking the court to void a prior agreement that predated DeSantis’ appointments to the board.

The agreement gives broad powers to Disney over construction on its land, with the DeSantis-appointed board arguing it renders them “powerless” and alleging in court Disney put it into place unlawfully; Disney unsuccessfully sought to have the case dismissed.

The company’s latest counterclaim filed this week accuses the board of breach of contract and breaking Florida law in trying to have the contract voided, violating Disney’s rights to due process and free speech among other alleged infractions.

The filing came after DeSantis told CNBC Monday he and his allies had “basically moved on” from the dispute with Disney, encouraging the company to “drop the lawsuit” it’s filed in federal court against both him and the board.

The DeSantis-appointed board has also tried to quickly move on with its state lawsuit against the company, filing a motion for summary judgment earlier this week that asks the court to more speedily rule on the case rather than hold a trial.

Alan Lawson, the lead attorney representing the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District in the state lawsuit, has not yet responded to a request for comment.

What To Watch For

Disney’s counterclaim asks the court to award the company an unspecified amount in damages for the breach of contract, because it alleges the board is refusing to follow the legally-imposed development agreement. The company also asks the court to declare the development agreement is legal and void efforts taken by the board and state legislature to nullify it. The company’s lawsuit against DeSantis and his appointees in federal court similarly asks for the development agreement to be restored, and for Walt Disney World’s special district to go back to functioning as it did before the DeSantis feud began, with a board appointed by the district’s landowners—namely Disney—rather than the governor’s appointees.

Chief Critic

“All we want to do is treat everybody the same, and let’s move forward,” DeSantis told CNBC after encouraging Disney to drop its litigation. “I’m totally fine with that. But I’m not fine with giving extraordinary privileges, you know, to one special company at the exclusion of everybody else.”


DeSantis’ comments about moving on from Disney come as the Florida governor’s presidential run has fizzled out after he was initially positioned as former President Donald Trump’s key rival in the GOP primary, with the governor recently replacing his campaign manager and laying off staff in an apparent effort to shake up his campaign. While polling suggests a majority of Republicans side with DeSantis in his feud with Disney, the governor has drawn criticism for going after the company from even members of his own party, which could be a reason for him to want to back down from the dispute. Trump has criticized the governor’s vendetta against Disney as “so unnecessary,” while fellow 2024 candidate Chris Christie said, “I don’t think Ron DeSantis is a conservative, based on his actions towards Disney.”

Key Background

Disney’s ongoing feud with DeSantis and his allies began in March 2022, when Disney publicly opposed Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law, known by critics as “Don’t Say Gay.” DeSantis and GOP legislators quickly targeted what was then known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which essentially functions as a county government for Walt Disney World’s property, handling infrastructure like road improvements, waste removal and construction permits. The Florida legislature first passed a law that got rid of the special district entirely before later backtracking amid concerns that would pass the burden on to taxpayers, instead enacting legislation that just overhauled the special district by replacing its board with DeSantis appointees. The governor-appointed board members soon discovered the existence of the development agreement—which Disney and the previous Reedy Creek board enacted right before the governor’s appointees took over—and passed a resolution to void it. Disney filed its lawsuit in federal court minutes later, alleging the governor and the board were illegally infringing on the company’s freedom of speech by punishing it for opposing the Parental Rights in Education law.

Further Reading

DeSantis Board Countersues Disney: Here’s A Time Line Of Florida’s War With The Mouse Over Special District (Forbes)

Disney Vs. DeSantis: Governor’s Appointees Win In Court As Suit Against Company Cleared To Move Forward (Forbes)

DeSantis urges Bob Iger to drop Disney lawsuit, accept the end of ‘special privileges’ (CNBC)

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