$227 million settlement reached in building collapse

Rescue operations at the site of the Salvation Army building collapse. “RescueOps5June” by TypoBoy – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

A 2013 building collapse, which was discussed in our blog post, “2013 Philadelphia building collapse,” just settled for $227 million. After almost 4 years, including a 5-month trial, the 19 people who were killed or injured and their families will finally receive compensation. The trial was the longest in Philadelphia court history, and the settlement is reportedly the largest personal injury settlement in Pennsylvania state court history.

On January 31, 2017, after only 4 hours of deliberation, the jury found that all 5 defendants bore responsibility for the building collapse that crushed a Salvation Army thrift store, resulting in the deaths of 7 people. Prior to finalizing the damages portion of the trial, the parties reached a settlement.

The jury found the Salvation Army to be 75% responsible for the harm caused to the shoppers because its officers ignored warnings of danger and a potential collapse. The owners of the building being demolished were found to be 18% responsible. Testimony showed that they did not conduct due diligence before hiring an architect with little experience to monitor a large commercial demolition. Testimony also showed that they accepted, without investigation, the architect’s recommendation to hire an inexperienced and unlicensed contractor to handle the demolition project.  The architect also knew that the building was near collapse and told no one.

The jury found the demolition contractor and excavator operator to be the least responsible. They were both criminally charged and convicted in the collapse, are both serving long prison terms, and are considered penniless.

How the money will be apportioned among the 19 plaintiffs will be up to an arbitrator who will evaluate the individual claims. The amount to be paid by each defendant is to remain confidential.

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