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Earthquake trial poised to begin

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Pre-trial hearings are continuing the week after Thanksgiving in what is expected to be a months-long civil trial over the deaths of two women in the 2003 San Simeon earthquake.

The families of the women are suing the owner of the Paso Robles building where the two--the only ones to die in the magnitude 6.5 quake--both worked.

The families have filed wrongful death suits against the owners of the historic Acorn building, which partially collapsed in the quake. They argue that Jennifer Myrick, 20, and Marilyn Frost-Zafuto, 55, should have been warned that the building was not retrofitted to be earthquake safe.

The defendants, owner Mary Mastagni and her family, maintain that they had until 2018 to strengthen the building under both state and local law.

Scott Radovich, a San Luis Obispo civil law attorney who is not involved in the case, said the trial is being closely watched because of the precedent it could eventually set for building owners.

"The question is: Does a land owner have an enhanced duty to make these repairs or modifications in anticipation of an earthquake that may or may not come?" he said.

Whatever the ruling, it won't directly make law. It would take an appeals court ruling to set a legal precedent.

The families also sued the city of Paso Robles and Ann Reeves, the owner of the clothing store the victims worked at, but those claims have been dismissed.

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