Disney Settles Injury Suit

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Walt Disney Co. has agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to settle a lawsuit with a woman who said she suffered a brain hemorrhage while riding Disneyland's Indiana Jones Adventure.

Disney reached the confidential settlement with Deborah Bynum, 46, on Tuesday, six days before a court-imposed deadline by which the company had been ordered to turn over a list of patrons who have suffered brain injuries at its theme parks and less than two weeks before the two sides scheduled to begin mediation.

"Settlements are routine at this stage of any case," said Disneyland spokesman Ray Gomez, adding that mediation is a costly endeavor for both sides.

Bynum, 46, who lives in Texas, said she suffered a dull, throbbing headache shortly after riding on Indiana Jones in November 1998. That headache continued for a few days until she passed out twice. She was diagnosed with a hemorrhage and had surgery at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. She continues to suffer cognitive problems and is often unable to concentrate or perform multiple tasks, said her attorney, Barry Novack.

"This has been a significant emotional strain and drain on her," Novack said. "To have this aspect of her life behind her takes some burden off. . . . She's able to focus her attention on trying to do the best she can to cope with the consequences of her injury."

This is the second major case involving serious brain injury on Indiana Jones, a jostling attraction that simulates an off-road Jeep ride. In 1996, after riding on Indiana Jones, Zipora Jacob filed a lawsuit claiming that she had suffered a brain hemorrhage. That case was settled in 1999 for an undisclosed amount.

Bynum's settlement comes with thrill rides facing scrutiny after a 28-year-old woman recently suffered a fatal aneurysm rupture while riding on the Goliath roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia.

Novack, who also handled the Jacob case, said more study needs to be done on brain injuries and roller coasters.

"The facts and circumstances concerning serious injuries have to be accurately recorded and reported," Novack said. "As more brain bleeds become apparent as a result of ride dynamics, the public has to be informed that there is a risk of serious injury even [for] the unsuspecting and unknowing rider."

Gomez said Disneyland officials "continue to firmly believe that [Indiana Jones] is a safe attraction based on the fact that it has safely carried more than 40 million people since it opened more than six years ago."

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