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Family of victim in Venice boardwalk incident files lawsuit

 

A car plowed through  a crowd of people on the Venice boardwalk last year. (Thinkstock)
A car plowed through a crowd of people on the Venice boardwalk last year. (Thinkstock)suit, lo

The husband and parents of an Italian woman killed when a car plowed through a crowd of people on the Venice boardwalk last year filed a negligence lawsuit today against both the city and county of Los Angeles, as well as the driver of the car.

Alice Gruppioni, who was visiting Venice on her honeymoon, was killed last Aug. 3 and more than a dozen others injured when Nathan Louis Campbell drove south down Ocean Front Walk from Dudley Avenue to near Sunset Avenue, causing chaos and panic at one of Los Angeles’ biggest tourist magnets.

The 32-year-old bride died of blunt force trauma to the head and neck, according to the coroner’s office.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, are Gruppioni’s spouse, Christian Casadel, and parents, Valerio Gruppioni and Barbara Michelini.

Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the City Attorney’s office, declined comment on the suit.

City officials were aware the boardwalk is often crowded with visitors, yet there were insufficient bollards or other traffic impediments in place to help prevent such accidents, according to the lawsuit.

The city owns the boardwalk and the county controls parking lots adjacent to it, the suit states.

“Prior to the incident, vehicles frequently drove onto and on the boardwalk,” the suit says. “Indeed, the regularity with which unauthorized, non-emergency vehicles drove onto and on the boardwalk was widely known before Aug, 3, 2013.”

Los Angeles officials also knew that less than three miles away, a car struck and killed 10 people at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market in July 2003, prompting that city to put up metal bollards to minimize the chance of a repeat of the tragedy, the suit states.

Valerio Gruppioni had groomed his daughter to take over and run the family business after his retirement, according to the family’s court papers.

“The death of Alice has caused the loss of the financial support Alice Gruppioni would have contributed to the family …,” the suit says.

Casadel lost the financial benefits his wife would have contributed to their marriage and also has suffered severe emotional distress, according to the complaint.

On Friday, Nancy R. Martinez and her boyfriend, Jose Enrique Gutierrez, filed a separate negligence suit, also alleging the city did not do enough prevent such an accident from occurring by installing more traffic barriers. They were both injured after being hit by the car.

Campbell, 39, is charged with one count of murder, 17 counts of assault with a deadly weapon and 10 counts of leaving the scene of an accident.

After a Jan. 8 hearing in which he was ordered to stand trial, defense attorney Philip Dube told reporters that his client “never intended to hurt anybody or to kill that young lady.”

Campbell’s attorney contended that what happened was an accident and that Campbell “panicked” when he experienced a problem with the shift lever on the 2008 Dodge Avenger he had bought a few weeks earlier at a used car dealership in Colorado. The lawyer said his client was struggling to get the Avenger out of the parking gear when he gunned the sedan and it went forward.

Deputy District Attorney Victor Avila said at the preliminary hearing that Campbell was ‘going down a two-block boardwalk” and “hit people at different locations.” It is the prosecution’s position that Campbell “drove that vehicle, hitting whatever got in his way,” Avila said.

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