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$227M Settlement in Philly Building Collapse

Monday, February 13, 2017

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In a settlement reached last week, $227 million will be paid to family members of the seven people who died and 12 who were injured in the June 5, 2013, building collapse in downtown Philadelphia.

The settlement, announced Wednesday (Feb. 8), followed one of the longest-running civil trials in the city's history, at nearly six months, attorneys representing the plaintiffs announced.

The case stemmed from a deadly collapse. A four-story building being demolished collapsed onto an adjacent Salvation Army Thrift Store, while shoppers and employees were inside. Six were killed instantly, and another died later from injuries; 13 people were injured in the cave-in.

Jury Determined Fault

The defendants in the case included the Salvation Army; New York-based developer Richard Basciano (owner of the building being demolished); architect Plato Marinakos (Basciano’s local representative); demolition contractor Griffin Campbell and excavator operator Sean Benschop.

Late last month, the jury found the defendants to have played a role in the disaster, Philly.com reported. The news outlet has covered the case closely.

Campbell and Benschop were both criminally convicted in the disaster and are serving prison sentences.

Had the case continued, the jury would have deliberated damages, including punitive.

Collapse Warnings

During the trial, the plaintiffs alleged that the Salvation Army ignored warning of imminent collapse of the next door building, according to Philly.com.

Testimony indicated that Basciano’s company, STB, had sent five emails to the Salvation Army in the weeks prior to the deadly collapse, warning of a “threat to life and limb” and the potential for an “uncontrolled collapse.”

The jury also heard that Basciano hired Marinakos despite his lack of experience in monitoring a large commercial demolition. With no objection from Basciano, Marinakos had hired Campbell, who was inexperienced and unlicensed to handle the demolition project.

On the witness stand, Basciano reportedly broke down and said he was “brokenhearted” by the loss of life.

Settlement Details

The settlement in the case is believed to be one of the largest of its kind in Pennsylvania history, according to plaintiffs’ attorney Robert J. Mongeluzzi. In a statement, he described the settlement as "epic in dimension, fair, just, and, most importantly, a powerful deterrent to all those in any business or organization, at any level, whether they wear a suit or a uniform, who try to cut corners, save a buck, shove safety aside and put human life at risk."

The money will be divided among the 19 plaintiffs by an arbitrator who will evaluate the individual claims, Mongeluzzi said.

Medical bills, impact on families and lost earning potential will all be considered in the evaluation.

Philly.com suggests that plaintiff Mariya Plekan, then 52, may be entitled to a large portion of the settlement. The Ukrainian immigrant and regular customer of the store was reportedly pinned beneath the store’s debris for 13 hours and had to lose both of her legs. Plekan’s future medical expenses have been estimated at $50 million.

Philly.com also reports that Marinakos is believed to have “exhausted his liability insurance coverage,” so the settlement funds would have to come from the Salvation Army and Basciano.

   

Tagged categories: Construction; Demolition; Ethics; Health and safety; Laws and litigation; Lawsuits

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