January 9 -- A Superior Court judge Monday cleared the
way for a score of civil lawsuits against the Bayside District
Corporation in the July 2003 crash that killed ten and injured
60 at a farmers market in Downtown Santa Monica.
The first of the civil lawsuits against the non-profit agency
that runs the Downtown will go to trail on March 20, after Superior
Court Judge Valerie Baker denied renewed motions for dismissal.
"The Judge's ruling is an affirmation of our civil justice
system 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 Farmer's Market," said
Geoffrey S. Wells, the lead attorney representing the plaintiffs.
The decision comes less than two months after
a jury convicted George Weller of ten counts of vehicular
homicide for ramming his car through the crowded farmers market.
The 89-year-old Santa Monica resident was sentenced
to five years probation and nearly $100,000 in fines.
The Bayside had petitioned
to be released from the lawsuits, which allege the agency
was negligent and reckless in holding the event without taking
necessary safety precautions. A similar
suit against the City was dismissed last year and is under
"The Bayside did not meet its burden of showing that there
are no material factual disputes and that it is entitled to judgement
as a matter of law," Baker wrote in June 2006.
"On further review the court finds that the evidence submitted
in support of the motion is not sufficient to establish grounds
for summary judgement," she wrote.
The verdict is also still out in 38 separate civil
lawsuits filed as a result of the crash.