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Jury Rules Against Plaintiff In Amusement Ride Lawsuit

March 8, 1985

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) _ A Superior Court jury has rejected $7.6 million suit against Disneyland filed by a teen-ager who suffered brain damage and paralysis after a fall from the Space Mountain roller coaster ride.

The Orange County Superior Court jury deliberated five hours before rejecting the claim Thursday on a 9-3 vote in favor of the Anaheim amusement park. Jury decisions do not have to be unanimous in state civil court cases.

James Higgins, 19, of Quartz Hill, had alleged that a defective design in the ride caused his fall Feb. 19, 1983.

″In my opinion, (the jury) gathered that we were using the greatest degree of care that we can,″ said W. Mike McCray, a lawyer for the amusement park.

McCray said he believed that the jurors, who visited Disneyland to examine the scene, were swayed by testimony from a youth who demonstrated how it is possible to wiggle out from under a safety bar that holds passengers in their seats on the ride.

Paul Dohmann, a police officer who investigated the accident, testified that a witness saw Higgins raise his arms over his head and begin rising up out of his seat during the ride. Witnesses also said Higgins and two friends had been drinking before entering the amusement park.

Higgins, who has been confined to a wheelchair, told the jury last week that he does not remember how he fell out of the car.

″You can’t keep people from doing stupid things and in our opinion that’s what the kid did,″ McCray said. ″He stood up.″

Allen B. Millstone, one of Higgins’ lawyers, said, ″It’s difficult to assume that (the verdict) was correct, considering the evidence that went in.″

″We’re very much relieved by the verdict,″ McCray said outside court. ″But it’s a hard case to be happy about, because this young man was so seriously injured.″

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