Disney goes to trial for Tower of Terror stroke case

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

n a rare thrill-ride personal injury lawsuit that has made it to trial, Walt Disney World is in court this week defending the safety record of one of its most popular attractions. An Orange County jury heard opening arguments Wednesday in a case pitting Disney against Marvin Cohen, a now-80-year-old Pennsylvania man who suffered a stroke twelve years ago after riding the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, at the theme park now called Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

mlnem4s's avatar

No comments on this so far? Wow. Just think the affect this could have on all rides in the USA if this guy were to win this case!!

I find it very ironic that in America, where everything is "over-safetified" (yes I made that word up!) when it comes to theme parks and attractions in them, so many people are "supposedly" injured by these very rides. Yet I can go on YouTube and watch videos of rides in Europe and they don't even have fencing surrounding most rides, including those wild flat rides which at fairs people jump on the rotating platform while it is still in motion!

What does that say about Americans? Are we ever going to stop pointing the finger at everyone but ourselves? Is it now the American Dream to become a millionaire via lawsuits and litigation?

janfrederick's avatar

I think Disney would be covered if their warning mentioned "sudden, unexpected drops" or something along those lines. If the man knew of a pre-existing condition and wasn't reasonably warned that he was about to experience something that could trigger it, he (or the family) would have a case. But there have been warnings on rides as long as I can remember, so unless he was illiterate and they didn't include the warning in the queue spiel, I think this will not go anywhere.

"I go out at 3 o' clock for a quart of milk and come home to my son treating his body like an amusement park!" - Estelle Costanza
Jeff's avatar

Certainly Disney's lawyers have to be pretty confident, and if anyone can afford to draw a line in the sand, it would probably be Disney. I can't see how you can prove cause and effect without accounting for every single thing the guy did between riding and the stroke. I can't even tell you what I've done in the last week.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

Tekwardo's avatar

I love it that someone is suing because a ride named Tower of Terror, which worked properly, caused him some harm.

And I would imagine that the reason Disney is going to court and not settling is more because of the nature of the case. They can't have people saying that a properly functioning ride that has served millions of people is dangerous simply because some older gent had a stroke 23 days after riding.

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Disney is extraordinarily careful in managing their public image, and a trial, no matter how silly, is damaging to that. The only way I read this is that the guy (a) has a case so full of holes it makes a soccer net look like a brick wall, and (b) wasn't willing to accept whatever Disney offered to walk away.

janfrederick's avatar

In which case you'd think the case would have been thrown out.

"I go out at 3 o' clock for a quart of milk and come home to my son treating his body like an amusement park!" - Estelle Costanza

I applaud Disney for this. That ride is purely a family ride, and a great one at that. There is nothing on that ride in the motion that would cause any ill effects.

Our park fights everything, and more parks are now doing the same. Disney, for any argument, doesn't have a spotless safety record, but considering the numbers of riders they have, they are as good as it gets.

Being I mentioned both TofT's in Cali and Florida as my favorite rides in the industry in my Amusement Today interview last fall, I hope I get called as an expert witness.

Jeff's avatar

By that criteria, they'd call Paul Ruben first.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

+1 to Jeff.

Get the popcorn, this ought to be interesting. Has Barry Novack ever actually gone to court against one of the major park operators? I keep hoping that one of his high profile cases will go to court and result in his long-overdue public humiliation.

I thought that the Exponent report from a few years ago pretty much settled the issue of inertial brain injuries on amusement rides.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
/XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____

I can see why Disney is not settling cause they need to prove a point now and again.

If they make it too easy to get a settlement than everyone will start making cases over every little bump they get on their rides.

My theory is that if judges make better desicions with these kind of lawsuits and the lawyers represening the companys keep a stiff back, than more people realize that this is not easy cash and would be less likly to sue.

sws's avatar

I'm sorry, but from a medical perspective, 23 days between riding ToT and suffering a stroke is way too long to establish cause and effect. If it happened shortly afterward, I might consider the possibility. But 23 days, forget it.

I have to agree with Sws. IF the guy was going to suffer a stroke it would be on the ride itself not nearly a month later. The parks to a good job in warning the guests that there dangers in riding the rides. IT's the guest responsiblity to recognize the risks and know thier of bodies' limits. So the blame rests in the hands of the guest not the amusement park.

janfrederick said:

I think Disney would be covered if their warning mentioned "sudden, unexpected drops" or something along those lines.

Warnings or contracts in the United States are almost unenforceable now days. They'll argue that the sign wasn't large enough, it was in the wrong spot or it was hard to understand.

What we need are rider responsibility laws passed that mean that the riders assumes all responsibility for choosing to ride unless there is gross misconduct or negligence on the part of the operator. I want to see the industry and the rides protected.

Off topic, but indirectly related. Do you realize they're putting doors on the parking lot trams at Disneyland. The ones that have operated with open sides for 55 years!!!! Seriously, what the hell is wrong with people?

...and how long will it be before somebody gets a finger smashed in a door?

I do know that at the last meeting a decision was made to revisit and potentially revise ASTM F 770:5, which is the Patron Responsibility section. I asked to be a part of the task group for that revision because that is the model for rider responsibility laws and I really do not want to see it watered down any further than it already is.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
/XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____

as a florida site ToT bellhop i can safely say that if you ride the attraction you WILL pass 3 warning signs (no matter which way you go into the building or which load path in the boiler room you choose) and hear a warning spiel that MUST (and does) play before every dispatch (its in the rides programing). Whether you choose to stop and read them and/or pay attention to the spiel is your own choice. you had four opportunities.
for anyone interested the locations of the signs are as follows:
1. as you walk up sunset there is one right next to Fastpass Distribution
2. right under the iron awning as you enter the formal queue
3. next to both grouper stations
and if you go up the backdoor entrance
4. right next to the backdoor entrance.

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