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Bay area woman suing Disney citing "Jungle Cruise" mishap

6:19 PM, Dec 3, 2012   |    comments
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South Tampa, Florida -- A Valrico woman has announced she's suing Disney World for an injury she says she suffered aboard the Jungle Cruise attraction.

If you've ever been on the ride, you know it's supposed to be a comedy-laced boat-cruise. But the woman suing, 41-year-old Stacey Holdorff, says there's nothing funny about what happened to her.

Holdorff claims she was injured as she was stepping off the Jungle Cruise at Disney's Magic Kingdom.

Aside from the lawsuit itself, her case may expose just how hard a Florida law can make it to take on Mickey Mouse and other theme parks in court.

For Holdorff, Disney World had always been a magical place. A season pass holder, visiting the park hundreds of times, she says.

"Anytime that we had a free day we were there."

In fact on January 8, Stacey was celebrating her daughter Tiffany's sixth birthday there.

But as they climbed off the Jungle Cruise attraction, an accident, says Holdorff, threw her, her daughter and a theme park worker back into the boat.

"It was one of the rides I would get on because I'm leery of fast things, and it was very benign. or so I thought," she said this morning with her attorney at her side.

Holdorff's lawyer says the boat behind Stacey's apparently stalled, rear-ending them just as she was stepping back onto the dock.

It's left the Holdorff with a debilitating spinal injury in two spots, they say, requiring surgery.

"It's just a daily nuisance to do menial tasks that I used to take for granted," said Holdorff.

The lawsuit, filed in Orange County, seeks an amount greater than $15,000. But Greer says it would be much more than that figure.

"The loss of her income and the expense of surgeries to come are gonna be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars," he said.

Geer says they've tried unsuccessfully to reach a settlement with Disney. 

He says under an obscure Florida law, theme parks don't have to report such incidents, so they've been told there's no record of the incident. They may have to search for workers' compensation records if the theme park employee involved filed for benefits.

Also, as hard as it is for Geer to believe, Disney, he says, claims to have no surveillance video of the mishap.

"I was told that over the phone. I asked to have it confirmed in writing. It was not confirmed," he said.

As a result, the only proof of an incident occurring may be a post in a Disney Fan Forum from another park visitor that day. 

In the post, "Kath1210" claims to have witnessed an accident that left a Jungle Cruise worker and guest injured.

Geer says they'd like to find "Kath1210" and "discover the people that were there on the dock that day."

In the meantime, Stacey Holdorff says her image of Disney is shattered, and worse, so is her daughter Tiffany's.

"It was her favorite place ever," she said, "And watching her mom being carted away in an ambulance was devastating to her."

There have been at least two other incidents involving the Jungle Cruise attraction within the past couple of years. One, a documented case in California, and the other in Florida.

Geer says one case is an accident, two is a coincidence, but three shows a pattern.

A spokesperson for the theme park would only say that Disney "will respond to the lawsuit as appropriate in court".

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