Disney World, Cochlear Implants, Guest Claims, Lost & FoundThis page is intended to provide a bit more information on Disney World (and Disneyland and similar theme parks) and cochlear implants. It is also intended to discuss the Disney Guest Claims experience.
Summary: Cochlear implants can and do come off on Disney rides, and if they do, you may end up having to cover the cost of the replacement.
Space MountainMy daughter was riding Space Mountain at Disney World in February, 2016, and her cochlear implant came off. So yes, it really does happen. And no, it does not always happen: we had just been on Space Mountain 15 minutes earlier, and it did not come off under nearly identical circumstances.
It turns out a lot of stuff comes off of guests in Space Mountain; most of it just falls to the floor. Each night after the ride closes, 4 cast members go through the floor of Space Mountain and pick up everything that has fallen (often a bag full of stuff). It then gets sent to Lost & Found. For trickier items -- such as cochlear implants, which have magnets, and can stick to the metal tracks -- they do a weekly maintenance walkthrough, that goes in more depth. Neither turned up my daughter's cochlear implant, however.
Initial RespsonseThere were two cast members helping people get off the ride. I let them know what happened, and they used the flashlight mode on their phones to search the car (including the outside). They decided that it wasn't in the car, and chose not to pull the car aside, but to let it continue on.
They then gave me a brief overview of what happens with lost articles. They asked if I wanted to talk to the ride coordinator, which I did. He came down a few minutes later, had me write a description, and took my name and phone number. He explained that there is one bump where about 85% of lost articles come off. I was told to report the loss to Guest Relations at City Hall, and then either go there in the evening or to Lost and Found in the morning.
We then went to Guest Relations (at City Hall), and filled out information there for Lost and Found. I later found out that the new college student ("Earning My Ears") forgot to enter the information online.
Two Cast Members Lie and Break the LawBefore leaving the Space Mountain building, I tried going back to the ride coordinator, as I realized the pictures they take of the ride could help show where the implant came off.
As I was going back, I was stopped by two people (literally stopped; they put their hands out). I explained my daughter lost an expensive medical device, and the woman said she was a cast member and showed me her picture ID. I explained that Disney may be responsible for the loss, and she said confirmed that Disney was responsible for the loss.
That sounds great, of course, except the spoiler is that Disney later denied my claim, and said that what she did was "like a plumber offering medical advice." Disney said that only an adjuster is allowed to make that determination, and from what I understand, it is illegal in Florida to perform the functions of an adjuster without a license.
Disney Lost and FoundI went to Lost and Found the next morning, while my family explored Epcot. She checked, and did not find anything. She said that sometimes items from rides take an extra day. She explained that the maintenance walkthroughs are for areas that are not normally reachable.
Note that even though you may give your phone number, I was told by 2 separate Disney cast members that they will not call you if they find something. I find that very strange (why bother taking the phone number if you won't use it?).
Guest RelationsAfter talking to Lost and Found, I felt it necessary to do something more. They were treating a $9,000 piece of equipment the same as a $20 pair of sunglasses, and there were lots of unanswered questions (e.g. when they took the description, were the cast members looking for the cochlear implant, or just doing their normal routine?). So I went to Guest Relations.
Guest Relations this time was incredibly helpful, the person I talked to was very sympathetic, had a co-worker call the ride coordinator at Space Mountain, and asked lots of questions. They confirmed that it was not found at Space Mountain, and that they put in an urgent request for a maintenance walkthrough that evening. After taking the information, she gave me the information for Guest Claims, and said that I needed to contact them (again, they would not contact me first).
Guest Relations isn't always so perfect. I mentioned in the 'Initial Response' that a Guest Claims girl forgot to enter the information online. And when I went back to Guest Claims 2 days after the loss, they weren't very helpful (e.g. despite one having done walkthroughs at Space Mountain, she used different terms for the walkthrough, and didn't seem to distinguish between the daily walkthroughs and maintenance walkthroughs). And they could not give me any idea of whether it was likely to be found in the future, nor told me what next step(s) to take.
Guest ClaimsGuest Claims are the "big guns" at Disney. Only they or the legal department can accept liability for anything that happens at Disney. They are the ones who you would contact if you lose something valuable, get sick/hurt/injured/die, etc. You talk to adjusters there, who (purportedly) do an investigation and I assume consult with their lawyers.
I contacted Guest Claims on Friday, 2 days after the loss. It around 5:00, but they close at 4:30. I left a message for them. I explained how Guest Relations seems to be treating this more as a $20 pair of sunglasses that was lost, and that I have to order a replacement, and to let me know as soon as possible if it was found or they had any other information. I also mentioned that I had been told by a Disney cast member that Disney was responsible.
The called me on Monday afternoon, just as I was finishing up spending an hour ordering the replacement. She verified the value, and said a claims rep would call me within a few days.
Two weeks later, an adjuster Al Gutierez called. I was on the phone with him for about 15 minutes going over the details. He said he would do an investigation, get statements from all concerned parties (which they did not do), gather information, and get back to me. I assumed that there would be no issues, as a Disney cast member stated that Disney was responsible, and Guest Claims didn't say otherwise when I informed them.
Guest Claims InvestigationAfter about another 2 weeks, the adjuster called back. He said that he talked to an engineer at Space Mountain, who told him the only way the ride could have caused it is if either the ride went too fast or if it had a strong magnet. He said the ride goes no faster than 27MPH, and the only magnet is in the speakers. Of course, from a scientific perspective, that is complete BS. It's acceleration that could cause the device to detach, not speed. And a magnetic field strong enough to pull off a cochlear implant would likely be lethal. He said they would not pay, but if insurance covered it they might pay a deductible.
So the first problem with the investigation is that it was not scientific (thinking the speed could cause the device to fall off; you can drink a cup of water on an airplane at 700MPH, but cannot when accelerating in a car at 10MPH). The other problem is that they said they would talk with all concerned parties. However, he clearly did not talk to the person that said Disney was responsible (when I asked about that, the adjuster referred to the woman as "he" several times).
I explained that from what he was telling me, the cochlear implant could have just as easily fallen off while standing in line. He had no response to that. Also, they never asked who told me that Disney was responsible.
My ResponseAfter that phone call, I was furious: two Disney cast members accepted responsibility (one directly, the other was there and didn't say anything otherwise), and Guest Claims had the option of letting me know before I purchased the replacement that they felt Disney might not be responsible.
I sent them a 3-page letter explaining why I felt that Disney was responsible, and gave them a deadline to pay me.
The adjuster called back. This time, he came up with another bogus explanation: the bump where 85% of items come off is only 4-5 feet high. Back to science: it is force, not height, that would determine whether the cochlear implant would come off.
I asked him if he could explain how the cochlear implant could have come off, if it had nothing to do with the ride. Again, he could not come up with a response.
I sent another E-mail the day of the deadline, as I had not heard any further from them. I got a call back from someone named Tony. This time, he came up with a new reason they should not be liable: assumed risk (in other words, we went on the ride, and could have foreseen that the cochlear implant could have come off and Disney would be unable to find it). That answer finally makes sense (although does not address the Disney employee that accepted responsibility). But even that answer is bogus: Disney said that it is not possible that the ride could have caused the cochlear implant to come off, so how could someone foresee a risk that Disney does not?
AppealFinally, I tried E-mailing a Senior VP at Disney, briefly explaining the situation.
A day later, I got a call from the Manager of Guest Claims. She was very nice and sympathetic. She took the name of the employee that told me Disney was responsible, as she wanted to speak to her leader to coach or counsel her (unfortunately, she could not find a record of the person, just perhaps in California, but this was Florida). She said several times that there is no liability on the part of Disney.
The manager also said that they could send me a check for $1,000. I explained that I was planning to check with my health insurance first, that there may be no need for them to send a check. I did not at any point request that they send the check (and in fact, as I mentioned, suggested they should not). She made it sound like they would send one anyway, even if I did end up getting fully reimbursed. I thought that was a bit odd, that they would send a check even if I might get fully reimbursed.
A couple weeks later, I got a letter with a check. The letter explains what the manager did not mention: by depositing the check, it releases Disney from all claims I may have.
ResolutionIt looks like I will be able to receive a refund from the manufacturer, who really stepped up to help out here.
The manufacturer, Cochlear Americas, offers a one-time replacement of the device. However, they state that the claim must be submitted within 60 days (it had been more like 80 days when I submitted the claim). And to refund my initial purchase, it must be done within 90 days (and by the time the claim went through, it was 91 days by my calculation). Despite that, they still allowed the claim. So where Disney refused to accept responsibility after claiming they did, Cochlear pulled through and took care of us even though they had an easy out.
As for the check, I'll have to think about whether to deposit that. Doing so would prevent me from suing Disney, but I have no desire to do that (since Cochlear reimbursed me for the loss). I put in a lot of time and there was a lot of stress dealing with Disney, and hey, they sent me the check, and they will benefit if I cash it (they can reduce their potential liability). So I'm leaning towards depositing it.
Final ThoughtsDespite what Disney said, it is obvious that the ride caused the implant to come off. To say otherwise is ludicrous! Whether or not Disney should be responsible for such a loss is a different story. But to try to suggest that the ride could not have caused the implant to come off is completely ridiculous.
And Cochlear Americas definitely gets kudos here for going above and beyond and helping out where Disney refused to do so.
And a note to Disney: you could have made this SO much simpler if you had just responded to my original voice mail immediately by saying that you thought Disney might not be responsible. Had you done that, I might have looked at ordering through insurance or the manufacturer loss policy, and all this hassle would have been avoided.