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Appellate Court Sides With Victims of Santa Monica Farmers Market Crash

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By: Staff Writer
A state appeals court has ruled that victims of a crash at the Santa Monica farmer’s market when an elderly driver drove into a crowd of shoppers, may sue the city for failing to adequately protect the people at the market.

According to an Associated Press news report, this ruling reinstates victims’ allegations that the city’s wooden barricades were not sufficient to protect them from the crash caused by 86-year-old George Rusell Weller on July 16, 2006. That crash killed 10 people and injured more than 70. Weller, who was convicted on 10 counts of manslaughter last year, was sentenced to five years of probation.

Many of the people who suffered injuries in this horrific accident, filed personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits against the city of Santa Monica, but a judge ruled in favor of the city, which claimed immunity from liability citing a traffic control map for the market, which officials said showed that they had taken traffic safety into consideration. The appellate court’s reversal of that decision was based on its assertion that the traffic map the city cited was not the same plan approved by the city’s traffic engineer 20 years ago.

This decision essentially gives the green light for these plaintiffs to file their lawsuits. City officials told the Associated Press that the incident was a “terrible accident” and a “tragedy,” but that taxpayers should not have to pay for what was clearly Weller’s fault. This is an important decision on the part of the Appellate Court because it will bring out details about what the city’s safeguards were at the market.

More questions to be asked in this case are: Did the city know that the wooden barriers were not enough to protect people in the market, should such an accident occur? Did city officials reject a better traffic design to save money or for some other reason? Did a dangerous traffic condition exist at the market? At least now, victims have a chance to ask these questions and hopefully get some answers.

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