Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Judge Lets Farmers’ Market Plaintiffs Pursue Bayside District Corporation
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A lawyer for various plaintiffs in the consolidated civil suit over the 2003 Santa Monica Farmers’ Market accident yesterday praised a ruling that allows plaintiffs to pursue their claims against a company that had a contractual agreement with the city to provide maintenance and security services and to market the downtown area.
Santa Monica attorney Geoffrey S. Wells, who represents 18 of the 36 plaintiffs, said Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Valerie Baker’s ruling late Friday correctly compels Bayside District Corporation to stand jury trial for personal injury and wrongful death claims stemming from the accident.
Ten people were killed and dozens injured when then-86-year-old George Russell Weller drove his car onto a closed-off street into a busy crowd of pedestrians.
“We’ll now have an opportunity to hold people other than just Mr. Weller responsible for this tragic accident,” Wells said. The plaintiffs will now focus on preparing for the first of the trials, which is set to begin on March 20, he added.
Bayside had made a renewed motion for summary judgment against the plaintiffs, submitting various declarations stating it had no responsibilities with respect to the Farmers’ Market.
Following a Dec. 8 hearing, Baker denied the motion, concluding there was a triable issue “as to the proper interpretation of the Service Agreement and Bayside’s duties thereunder.” The contract was broadly written, she held, and reasonably susceptible to the plaintiffs’ interpretation under which Bayside had a duty to protect the public it invited to attend the Farmers’ Market.
Bayside’s counsel, Philip M Hayes, declined to comment on the ruling.
Wells noted that the City of Santa Monica, also a named defendant, is still in the case pending a ruling on its summary judgment motion regarding the claim it negligently hired people to barricade the market. Once a final determination is made as to all of the city’s potential liability, he added, the plaintiffs plan to appeal Baker’s earlier ruling in favor of the city on its design immunity defense.
Weller was convicted of vehicular manslaughter and is now serving felony probation.
The lead case is Supino v. Weller, SC 080283.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company