The City of Santa Monica has settled the civil suits arising out of the July 2003 Farmers’ Market tragedy, in which the elderly George Russell Weller crashed through the outdoor market on Arizona Avenue, leaving ten persons dead and more than 60 injured.
At its meeting on Tuesday, May 20, the Santa Monica City Council voted to settle the litigation for a total payment of $21 million to the plaintiffs. The litigation involved the consolidated claims of dozens of victims, who sued numerous defendants, including Mr. Weller, the City, the Bayside District Corporation, and one nonprofit organization connected to the market. Mr. Weller was criminally prosecuted by the District Attorney’s office and convicted.
The City’s settlement payment will be made with insurance proceeds. 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.
Trial of the consolidated cases began on Monday, May 19, with initial jury selection. The case was scheduled to proceed through trial in three phases and would likely have taken months. Deputy City Attorney Jeanette Schactner said of the settlement: “Considering the unique circumstances of this case, including the horrific loss and injuries, this is a good result for all concerned. 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.”
After publicly voting to approve the settlement, the Council voted to extend recognition and thanks to attorneys Dana Fox of Lynberg & Watkins and to Ms. Schactner who represented the City in the case.