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Disneyland Suit : Park Settles With Family of Stabbed Man

Times Staff Writer

The mother and brother of a man who was stabbed to death in Disneyland in 1981 agreed to a secret settlement of their claim Thursday.

Attorneys for Disneyland had asked for a new trial after an Orange County jury found the park negligent on July 22 in the medical treatment it provided for Mel C. Yorba. Jurors fixed damages at $600,000.

Attorneys refused to disclose terms of the settlement in favor of Ellen Reynolds, 49, of Riverside, who will share the money with Yorba’s brother, Mark Yorba, 25.

“My clients have been through a lot,” said John A. Luetto, attorney for the victim’s mother and brother. “They wanted a final resolution and not to have it dragged into the appellate courts.” The settlement avoids the possibility of an appeal.

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The trial developed into a challenge of park security and emergency medical policies and procedures.

Written Policy

Disneyland’s written policy, introduced into evidence at the trial, stated that paramedics should be called in the event of any life-threatening emergencies. But a Disneyland nurse who treated Yorba after he was stabbed testified that she had been instructed never to call paramedics.

After the nurse applied basic first aid, Yorba was placed in a Disneyland van and driven to the nearest hospital emergency room.

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Jurors said they concluded that Disneyland set its own standards in the written policy but that the park was negligent when employees failed to follow that policy in practice.

“My clients are happy,” Luetto said. “They achieved their objective. Disneyland now practices what it preaches.”

Yorba had scuffled with James O’Driscoll of San Diego when the stabbing occurred in the Tomorrowland section of the park. Driscoll was convicted of second-degree murder in the case and is serving a 16-year-to-life sentence.

Much of the trial centered on whether Yorba could have survived the wound.

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An expert in trauma surgery testified that half of all victims with wounds to the heart survive if brought immediately to a hospital staffed by specialists in emergency medical care. But the physician who treated Yorba claimed that he would have died even if he had been stabbed in the emergency room.

The trial, before Superior Court Judge Jerrold S. Oliver, was a rare loss for Disneyland attorneys. They have built a reputation for winning cases heard before juries.

Richard E. McCain, an attorney for Disneyland, could not be reached for comment.


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