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Jury selection in market crash civil suits

May 19, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Jury selection got under way Monday in three wrongful death lawsuits stemming from the deadly Santa Monica Farmers' Market crash.Ten people were killed when an 86-year-old man plowed his car through the crowded market.

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Attorneys for both sides want to know what the perspective jurors remember about the July 2003 crash. They also want to know whether or not the jurors are going to be able to serve on what will likely be a very lengthy trial.

There are three plaintiffs involved in the wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits. They are suing the driver of the vehicle, George Weller, who's now 91 years old. The plaintiffs are also suing the city of Santa Monica and Bayside District Corp., which works with the city to regulate the farmers market.

On July 16, 2003, Weller stepped on the gas instead of the brake and plowed through the crowded farmers' market on Arizona Avenue. Ten people were killed and dozens more were injured.

Since that time, there have been 42 civil cases that have been settled out of court.

The plaintiffs who are taking their case to trial say that had vehicles been parked on each end of the market Weller could have been stopped in his tracks and lives would have been spared.

Among the remaining plaintiffs whose case is now set to go to trial is Janet Nabatian. Her 63-year-old mother and 7-month-old son were struck by Weller's car and killed. Nabatian unknowingly moved out of the vehicle's path in order to get better reception on her cell phone. The phone call -- from a relative in Washington, D.C. -- saved Nabatian's life.

Weller was convicted in October 2006 of 10 counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. He was sentenced a month later to five years probation.

Jury selection begins Monday morning, with opening statements expected to follow May 23 or May 27.

 

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