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Sorry, Mickey, but lawsuit will proceed

SHARE Sorry, Mickey, but lawsuit will proceed

Being mugged in the parking lot of Disneyland was bad enough, but having her grandchildren see Mickey Mouse take his head off was the last straw for one former Mousketeer.

Billie Jean Matay was returning to the car with her daughter and grandchildren in August 1995 when a gunman robbed them of $1,650, credit cards and identification. The robber was never caught.During questioning, her grandchildren were separated from the adults and held backstage, where they saw cartoon characters removing their costumes.

Matay sued, claiming that Disneyland's security was inadequate and that workers traumatized her three grandchildren - ages 5 to 11 - by exposing them "to the reality that the Disney characters were, in fact, make-believe."

Friday, Superior Court Judge Richard Luesebrink rejected motions to dismiss the lawsuit and to exclude the issue of the disrobing cartoon characters. The trial is scheduled for Aug. 18.

Disney lawyer Stephen Waimey argued that "Mickey taking his head off" should not be part of trial.

"There's no cause of action for a cartoon character taking off a cartoon character uniform," he said. "It's ridiculous."

Matay's lawyer's, Robert O'Connor, argued that Disney had an obligation to make sure the children "were insulated from activity that caused emotional distress."

Matay, who performed on TV's "Mickey Mouse Club," was a member of the troupe that performed at Disneyland's opening in 1955.

Matay, who also alleges guards held family members against their will for hours of questioning, is seeking unspecified damages for neg-ligence and emotional distress inflicted on her grandchildren.

It's not the first time the issue of children seeing Disney characters out of costume has come up in court.

In 1990, Karen and Lonnie Boozer of Idaho Falls, Idaho, settled out of court after contending their children were traumatized by seeing Disney characters carrying their costume heads.