More than three years after Encino resident Jerome Weber was killed while using an automated teller machine in Los Angeles, his family has settled a wrongful death suit against Wells Fargo Bank for an undisclosed sum.
Weber's widow, Sally, and the couple's two young children brought the suit, claiming that the bank had failed to provide security guards or other safety precautions. Weber was slain by a robber in August, 1989, while trying to withdraw $40 from a Wells Fargo drive-up machine at National and Sepulveda boulevards. The bank has since installed surveillance cameras at the site, Wells Fargo attorney Peter Ezzell said.
The terms of the settlement were not made public by mutual agreement. A Wells Fargo spokeswoman had no comment.
Sanford Gage, attorney for the Weber family, said the suit was one of only a handful of ATM-safety cases he is aware of in Southern California. But he predicted that the number of cases would grow "as the public gains more awareness how the lack of lighting or security may have relevance to attacks."
Despite a California ATM safety law that mandates better lighting and landscaping than existed at the time Weber was murdered, Gage said safety remains a problem. He is trying to form a group to seek stronger legislation and better records of the number of crimes involving the machines.
Two weeks ago, Sherri Foreman, who was pregnant, was murdered after she withdrew $40 from an automated machine at a Great Western Bank in Sherman Oaks.
The Los Angeles Police Department does not keep separate statistics on crimes involving ATMs, a spokesman said. A spokesman for the national Electronic Funds Transfer Assn. said there are no statistics available.
Wells Fargo Bank security chief Bill Wipprecht, who also heads the California Bankers Assn.'s security committee, estimated that ATM crime in California occurs only in one in every 1.5 million transactions. "The number of incidents are minimal compared to the number of crimes that occur on the streets every day," he said.
But Sally Weber, who was with her husband when he was killed, said: "The banks have a long, long way to go." She still uses ATMs, she said, but "only inside markets, or inside a bank. I never use them outside."
Sally Weber said she planned to use the settlement money to help set up a group home through the Jewish Community Foundation for developmentally disabled Jewish young adults. Jerome Weber was founder and director of the Council on Jewish Life of the Jewish Federation Council.