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Church Found Liable in Crash

By Ana Cholo-Tipton
Staff Writer

August 27, 1998

Settlement: Former L.B. Resident, who was crushed by van, awarded $10 million.

A former Long Beach woman crushed by a van during a church outing five years ago was awarded more than $10 million on Tuesday from a Superior Court jury that found her church liable, her attorney said Wednesday.

On August 4, 1993, Shirlee Fuller and other members of the Greater Bethany Apostolic Church in South-Central Los Angeles were driving in the church van to Cleveland for a national conference, said her attorney, Brain Panish. Near Albuquerque, one of the van’s tires blew out and the van rolled over, throwing Fuller out of the vehicle, crushing her pelvis and causing brain injuries. She spent more than three weeks in a New Mexico hospital.

Fuller, 39, has not lived in Long Beach since 1993 and now lives in Moreno Valley, where she is cared for by her mother. Panish said it is unlikely Fuller will ever be able to return to work because of her extensive injuries.

Panish said that two days before the accident, three of the van’s four tires were replaced. The plaintiff’s attorney claims the mechanic at a local tire shop told the church administrator the forth tire should be changed as well.

“The church put an unsafe vehicle on the road,” Panish said Wednesday, adding that the tire that blew out was six years old. He said that the expense of replacing the tire should not have been an issue because the group had about $500 dollars available to them. But the church administrator, Panish said, did not want to spend the money for a forth tire.

The church’s attorney, Jack Tannenbaum disagrees and said that an appeal in the case is likely.

“How the hell the tire company was not held liable is beyond me. “If we’re held, they should be as well.”

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