Superior Court Judge Valerie Baker denied the City of Santa Monica Bayside District Corporation’s renewed motion for summary judgement on Friday, January 5th.
This means that, along with George Russell Weller, Bayside will now stand trial for wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits arising out of the July 16th, 2003 Santa Monica Farmers Market crash.
The first of the civil trials will begin on Tuesday, March 20th, in Los Angeles Superior Court/ Santa Monica Division.
Geoffrey S. Wells, with the Santa Monica-based law firm of Greene Broillet & Wheeler LLP, successfully argued on behalf of the Santa Monica Farmers Market plaintiffs in Supino vs. George Russell Weller, et. al., and is the lead attorney representing the plaintiffs.
Wells represents 14 plaintiffs. All of the plaintiffs’ cases were consolidated by the court and are collectively known as Supino vs. George Russell Weller, et. al.
“The judge’s ruling is an affirmation of our civil justice system,” Wells said, “and the importance of the jury in determining whether or not Bayside District Corporation had a duty to protect the public it invited to attend the Santa Monica Farmers Market.
“Our job now is to get ready for trial in March and to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that all of the defendants should be held accountable for their role in this tragedy.”
On July 16th, 2003, the plaintiffs were all attending the Santa Monica Farmers Market and were walking along Arizona Avenue.
At approximately 2 p.m. on that date, Weller lost control of his 1992 maroon Buick LeSabre sedan and drove it westbound on Arizona Avenue, between Fourth and Second Streets, striking and injuring at least 63 pedestrians and killing ten people.
More than 50 civil suits for either wrongful death or personal injury were subsequently filed against Weller, the City of Santa Monica and the Bayside District Corporation, a nonprofit city agency that manages downtown Santa Monica and the Third Street Promenade.
Weller was criminally convicted on October 20th last year of ten counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.
In their civil suits, the plaintiffs allege that the City of Santa Monica and Bayside District Corporation were negligent and reckless in conducting and regulating the weekly Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers Market.
The plaintiffs claim that the defendants’ acts or failures to act created the dangerous conditions which caused the accident to happen.
Allegations include that the city failed to install any type of bollards or barricades to block east/westbound traffic on Arizona Avenue between Second and Fourth Streets and failed to properly monitor the roadways or regulate motor vehicle traffic on market days.
Presently, the City of Santa Monica’s motion for summary judgment for the vicarious liability claim for negligently hiring people to properly barricade the market is still under submission with the court.
Therefore, the plaintiffs cannot appeal the court’s earlier ruling in favor of the city on design immunity until a court determines whether or not the city is out of the case on all claims.
The City of Santa Monica is represented by Jeanette Schachtner, chief deputy of the City of Santa Monica Civil Liability Division.
The City of Santa Monica and Bayside District Corporation together are represented by Dana Alden Fox and Phillip M. Hayes with the Los Angeles-based law firm of Lynberg & Watkins.
Weller is represented by Timothy L. Walker and Charles J. Schmitt with the Long Beach-based law firm of Ford Walker.