Victim of Disney Ride Left a Legacy of Justice

Amy Solomon remembers the moment she fell in love with the handsome lad who looks down on her as she works.

A trained ballerina, tomboy, and a communication major, Amy had the perfect performance skills and disposition to become Girardi | Keese’s first female attorney. As a second-year student at Loyola Law School, she won a position as a law clerk for the summer of 1986. She tried her first trial months after getting her bar card, helping an elderly lady from South Central win compensation after losing her home to a swindler.

She tried her second trial with Tom Girardi, winning $3.7 million for Elaine Fleischman, who had been rendered blind when an 18-wheeler changed lanes and pushed her car into the freeway divider. They met at 6 a.m. each morning and she volleyed Girardi’s questions. “What are we doing today? What witnesses are we calling? Why?”

Solomon spent the next decade winning millions for individuals injured in horrific accidents or through
medical malpractice while becoming a leader of the consumer bar. And then, in Autumn 2000, her heart went “zing.”

She was standing alone in the doorway of Brandon Zucker’s room in a rehabilitation facility, watching the four-year old laying in his bed. Brandon was experiencing every child’s dream, a day at Disneyland, when he joined his mother and older brother on the Roger Rabbit ride. An attendant ushered them into the taxicab, letting the 25-pound Brandon sit nearest to the gate. The attendant also failed to properly lower the safety bar.

When the carriage began to spin, Brandon flew out and was pinned under a carriage for more than 10 minutes before emergency personnel arrived.

Solomon remembers standing in that doorway as if it were yesterday.

“He’s quadded out,” she explains, having suffered such a severe brain injury that he can’t move his arms or legs. “He can’t move, he can’t talk. So I just stood there in the doorway watching him breathe.”

Moments later, his six-year old brother Nick came squealing down the hallway.

Brandon’s eyes lit up. And in that moment, Solomon realized that while the boy’s body was dead, his soul was firmly intact.

“And I thought, ‘Damnnit! Disney has done the ultimate bad deed and what an awful thing to put this precious four-year-old little boy and his family in this position. And I just got this fire in my belly that I needed to do whatever I could to hold Disney responsible for this awful thing they had visited on this family,” she recalls.

She went to war to give the family what it wanted more than anything: to bring Brandon home, which would require a house and medical staff to support 24-hour care. She also wanted Disney to change its ways. And she won, through a meticulous and unflinching examination of Disney’s failures, including the first investigation of amusement parks by the state division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal OSHA), shutting down the ride for 10 months, and riding Roger Rabbit herself with experts to reconstruct the accident. She pried secret documents from Disney that showed the sides of the ride had been designed too low, that the training and procedures for loading passengers were very lax, and that the reliance on emergency personnel coming from outside the park caused critical delays.

Solomon won $43 million for Brandon, and he came home. She also insisted that Disney implement new procedures providing greater safety for future children going to Disneyland.

“I’m happy to say the devastating park injuries are fewer and far between now,” says Solomon, who’s gone on to handle ever bigger cases while volunteering to help inner-city children.

But she still has that boy she fell in love with looking over her shoulder. Brandon died in January 2009 at the age of 13, having survived eight years following his accident.

“I was so lucky to have known him,” she says. 


 

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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