The City of Santa Monica has agreed to pay $6 million to settle lawsuits stemming from the fatal Farmers Market crash in 2003, making the city’s total payments to plaintiffs $21 million in the case.
The Santa Monica City Council voted to settle the Farmers Market litigation at its meeting Tuesday, May 20th. The litigation involved the consolidated claims of dozens of victims of the Farmers Market crash, which occurred July 16th, 2003, when then-86-year-old George Russell Weller drove his vehicle through the downtown Santa Monica Farmers Market, killing ten people and injuring more than 60 others.
The victims killed ranged from seven months to 78 years old.
Dozens of victims sued numerous defendants, including Weller, the city, the Bayside District Corporation, which manages downtown, and one nonprofit organization connected with the market.
The city’s $21 million settlement payment will be made from insurance proceeds, city officials said. In return for the settlement payment, all of the plaintiffs will dismiss their claims against both the city and the Bayside District Corporation, which was separately named as a defendant in the consolidated cases, according to the city attorney’s office.
“Considering the unique circumstances of this case, including the horrific loss and injuries, this is a good result for all concerned,” deputy city attorney Jeanette Schactner said of the settlement. “The city believes that it has no liability. But, in a case this big, trial results are difficult to predict.
“The settlement eliminates the risks and difficulties of trial and allows the victims, their families, and the city to put this tragedy behind them and move forward.”
Weller, now 91, was convicted in October 2006 of ten counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence in the Farmers Market tragedy and he was sentenced to five years of probation.
The lawsuit settlement came as the trial of the consolidated cases was beginning with initial jury selection. The case was scheduled to proceed through trial in three phases and would likely have taken months, city attorneys noted.
After publicly voting to approve the settlement, the City Council recognized the efforts of the attorneys who represented the city in the case — Dana Fox of Lynberg & Watkins and the city’s Schactner.