British teenager sues Disney after disabling heart attack on Tower of Terror

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

Leanne Deacon was 16 when she collapsed after riding the Tower of Terror ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Her heart stopped while she was being rushed to hospital but doctors managed to resuscitate her. The youngster suffered brain damage, which means she cannot speak and needs 24-hour care. Her lawsuit accuses Disney of negligence in the ride's design and operation. They also claim Disney had failed to adequately warn of risks or provide adequate safety restraints.

Read more from The Telegraph.

I realize that sueing after an incident is common place - but I took my then 5 year old son on the ride in Mar '07. I don't see where the restraints issue is coming in, it seemed very safe or my little one wouldn't have ridden it.

God, Family, Brewing, and Bicycling.

This is a tragic situation, but seems baseless on both points. The ride is plastered with warning signs, and the load area has the constant speil. The ride was upgraded from lapbars to seatbelts in 2003 (and I assume there was a reason for it, that is well documented, etc.)

Disney being Disney, I imagine they may well settle for a tidy sum with a non-disclosure agreement just to minimize the press. But, still, it's hard to see how they're at fault on this one. Sometimes bad things happen to good people.

To paraphrase Prossfor Noble: SH*T happens.

If we keep seeing lawsuits like this, it could be the end of inovative thril rides as we know them.

I feel bad a bout the heart attack, but you don't need to sue over it. Have the mouse pay for all lifetime medical care and be over it.

Geeze, are we going to have doctors doing full EKG's on everyone who comes through the turnstile? Will we see "red band," ride tickets prihibiting those who fail a physical from riding ANY thrill ride?

Coaster Junkie from NH
I drive in & out of Boston, so I ride coasters to relax!

Jeff's avatar

While a very sad story, I just don't see how they have a case. I'm not a doctor or a lawyer, but what do restraints have to do with having a heart attack?

The sad thing is that this happens all of the time to teenagers, usually while playing sports or doing other things that kids do. A kid at my high school went to play basketball at the rec center one afternoon and had the same symptoms. He got lightheaded, collapsed, had a heart attack and died.

I understand the family is angry, but it seems like a stretch to attribute this to a ride millions of people get on every year.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

The fact that they are trying to claim Disney was operating the ride as a "common carrier" should show any court that they are really grasping at straws. Many rides take you from the loading platform to the unloading platform--that certainly doesn't follow the legal definition that you were transported from one location to another for a fee.

I alluded to this above, but the strategy is pretty clear. A cute, blonde teenaged girl, who can no longer talk and needs 24/7 care, complete with before and after pictures, makes for spectacular headlines and great press. The merits of the case almost don't matter at that point, because public (uninformed) opinion will end up behind her no matter what.

Disney is pretty conservative about its reputation---even when they're clearly in the right, they'll calculate what a public defense will cost, both in direct legal fees and indirectly in "lost goodwill", add in the chance that a jury might ignore the facts in their pity for the girl, and write a check that's substantially smaller than that amount, but still a nice payday for the lawyers and the family involved, with the condition that no one says anything about the case from that point forward.

Is it right? No, it's not right. But, that's what's going to happen. Mark my words.

Last edited by Brian Noble,
sws's avatar

From the article:

In the lawsuit, which is seeking more than £10,000, the Deacons, from Kibworth, Leicestershire, accuse Disney of negligence in the ride's design and operation.

I'm not sure how much 10,000 pounds is, but it seems much less than the cost of a trial and all of the accompaning negative press. On that basis, Disney will probably pay them off to just go away.

That being said, this unfortunate girl likely had a previously undiagnosed asymptomatic congenital cardiac condition that led to the accident. There was nothing Disney could or should have done to prevent it. She probably would have collapsed on the soccer field with the same tragic results. The fact that it has taken three years to file suit, suggests the family is grasping at straws at this point.

Soggy's avatar

According to today's exchange rate, that's $14,516.99. If that's all they are suing for, this suit will be over by the time I finish composing this message. There has to be more to it than that.

Signs are posted everywhere, and the restraints were not faulty. On those 2 points, they have nothing. But the fact that it happened on or shortly after riding means they'll get what they are looking for.

Reminds me of the brain aneurysm on Goliath. Wrong place at the wrong time.

Pass da' sizzrup, bro!

Mamoosh's avatar

This teen isn't the only person suing Disney over Tower of Terror. A woman is suing the park, claiming that the ride relieves the pain of her abdominal adhesions but that the park is preventing her from riding it more.

So apparently ToT giveth...and taketh away.

Last edited by Mamoosh,

A womanis suing the park, claiming that the ride relieves the pain of herabdominal adhesions but that the park is preventing her from riding itmore.

I think they should just start billing her medical insurance for every ride. Problem solved.

Jeff's avatar

Yeah, I suspect it'll be settled quickly. It's cheaper to just make it go away. Agreed that it isn't right, but it's what'll happen.

Don't they have something closer to universal health care in the UK?

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

If there were dozens of injuries and the company blatantly ignored some common safety standard, then I could see where someone could claim negligence. But to say the company was negligent because one injury occurred-- yes it was tragic and unfortunate-- is pushing it.

Following that thinking, almost every business, product and service in the country can be called negligent.

Don't they have something closer to universal health care in the UK?

I believe they were among (if not the) first to implement it.

Jeff's avatar

Where is Richard when you need him? Probably having dinner right now... :)

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

dsloban's avatar

I am really sad to hear about the young lady! I feel that most people should know that thrill rides are what they are. Maybe this young lady had a condition that she knew about, but I will never understand why people of today are so quick to sue?

Life is like a rollercoaster! It is full of ups and downs!

Because they can and get $$$$$$$. Sad but true.

I'm going to get flamed to a crisp for saying this. But, it's true.

I've been thinking about how I'd react if it were one of my kids in this situation. And, to be honest, I'd be sorely tempted to file a similar suit. She's got a tough life ahead of her---a very tough life. Yes, Disney is not at fault, and I know that. But, Disney also has deep pockets, and a demonstrated willingness to settle these sorts of cases. If I thought I could do something to give my kid a more comfortable life---given that her ability to earn for herself is pretty much shot---I'd think very very hard about doing it, even though I know that it would be unethical.

If you put yourself in the position of her parents, its not nearly as cut and dried as it looks at first glance. It would take an extremely well-developed sense of personal ethics to say, "Well, shoot, isn't that just the worst luck ever? I guess we'll help her make do somehow."

Last edited by Brian Noble,
sws's avatar

Brings matches and lighter fluid to the Brian BBQ. I prefer my professors well cooked with a cold beer. :)

No, actually with kids the same age as this poor girl, the thought did cross my mind as I was reading the article. You cannot even imagine the costs of lifelong medical care for a teenager with serious complications. My cousin was hit by a car when he was two and left in a chronic vegetative state. He was made a ward of the state so he could receive medical care, otherwise it would have been cost prohibitive.

But Disney isn't the state.

I understand what you're saying, Brian. It would be a temptation, but it would still be wrong. Ethics that only survive until they're impractical or less useful than the alternative aren't ethics at all. Which is why, ultimately, most human ethics are a sham.

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