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Jury Rejects Knott's Suit Over Design of Coaster

Theme park had sought $17 million, contending Windjammer attraction had dangerous flaws.

October 31, 2003|Kimi Yoshino | Times Staff Writer

An Orange County jury has rejected a $17-million lawsuit by Knott's Berry Farm saying that the Windjammer coaster was dangerous and had serious design flaws.

In a lawsuit filed in 2000, Knott's sued Japanese manufacturer Togo Japan, alleging that the steel coaster was "fraught with problems" that included misaligned tracks, defective safety restraints and wrinkles in the main frame of the trains -- problems that forced the park to spend $2 million on repairs and inspections and to constantly shut the ride down.

After just three years in operation, Knott's Berry Farm officials dismantled Windjammer and replaced it last year with Xcelerator, a $13-million coaster that travels 82 mph and launches passengers 205 feet high, then into a 90-degree drop. Windjammer traveled 40 mph and reached a top height of 69 feet and cost about $6.2 million to build.

"They just wanted a new roller coaster that was bigger, badder and faster," said Togo's Los Angeles attorney, Jim Yukevich. "It really was a business decision where they turned around and made a money grab to cover the cost of new equipment."

No decision has been made whether to appeal Wednesday's verdict, but Knott's Santa Ana attorney Boyd Jensen called it "very unfair.

The trial lasted more than five weeks, and the jury deliberated for less than five hours.

Jensen said jurors told him they did not review about 100 exhibits that were entered as evidence.

"[Togo] provided a ride that was a catastrophe; they then wouldn't live up to their warranties," Jensen said. "There were maintenance problems that wouldn't go away. It couldn't stay open to the public, and it continued to break down."

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