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Disney Settles Indiana Jones Ride Lawsuit

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 of Texas on Tuesday--six days before a court-imposed deadline in which the company had been ordered to turn over a list of patrons who have suffered brain injuries at their theme parks and less than two weeks before the parties were 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, formerly of San Diego, said she suffered a dull, throbbing headache shortly after riding the attraction in November 1998. That headache continued for several days during which she twice passed out. She was diagnosed with a hemorrhage and underwent 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, her attorney has said.

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“This has been a significant emotional strain and drain on her,” her attorney Barry 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 injuries on the Indiana Jones ride, a jostling attraction that simulates an off-road Jeep ride. In 1996, after riding it, Zipora Jacob filed a lawsuit contending that she suffered a brain hemorrhage. That case was settled in 1999 for an undisclosed amount.

Bynum’s settlement comes as thrill rides are facing scrutiny in the wake of the recent death of a 28-year-old woman who suffered a fatal aneurysm 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 regarding brain injuries and roller coasters.

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“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.”

Disneyland officials said they did not make any changes to the Indiana Jones ride as a result of Bynum’s lawsuit and maintain that it is safe.

“We continue to firmly believe that it 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,” Gomez said.

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