$227 Million Settlement-Salvation Army Building Collapse
By: Cohen, Placitella & Roth @ Feb 14, 2017
$227 Million Settlement in Salvation Army Building Collapse Case
On June 5, 2013, a deadly building collapse occurred in Philadelphia at the corner of 22nd and Market Street. The disaster left seven people dead, and a dozen more with serious injuries. According to reports, the incident involved the Center City building that was undergoing demolition, which collapsed onto the Salvation Army building next to it. At the time of the collapse, the Salvation Army thrift store was full of people, both staff members and shoppers alike.
Now, nearly four years later, five months of trial a settlement in the devastating collapse has finally been reached: the defendants have agreed to pay $227 million to the victims of the collapse, and their families. Cohen, Placitella & Roth attorney Harry M. Roth was one of the lead trial lawyers in the case and James G. Begley was an integral part of the trial team.
Largest Personal Injury Settlement in Pennsylvania History
The $227 million settlement that was announced in early February 2017 is the largest personal injury settlement in the history of Pennsylvania’s civil court system. What’s more, the civil trial was also the one of the longest in court history in the state, spanning 17 weeks.
At the conclusion of the civil trial, all of the defendants were found liable. After the jury’s verdict, two parties, The Salvation Army, and Richard Basciano, a New York real estate speculator entered into negotiations with the plaintiffs resulting in the $227 million settlement.
Determining Liability in the Devastating Building Collapse
Despite the fact that the Hoagie City building collapsed upon the adjacent Salvation Army thrift store, the Salvation Army was held primarily liable for the deaths and injuries of the affected individuals and their related damages. According to an article in Philly.com, the Salvation Army’s liability was based on the fact that the organization “ignored warnings of an imminent collapse” that were provided to it by Thomas Simmonds, a top aid for Basciano. In addition to ignoring the warnings by failing to take action to vacate the building, the Salvation Army also failed to provide customers or employees with a proper warning of risk of collapse; those who were within the Salvation Army that day had no idea of the potential danger. As such, the Salvation Army was determined by the jury to be 75 percent responsible for damages sustained by shoppers in the collapse.
Richard Basciano, who is 91 years old, was also found to be partially liable for the collapse. Basciano’s liability was based on the fact that Basciano did not exercise the proper duty of care and due diligence that he should have when hiring Plato A. Marinakos, Jr., who was also named as a defendant in the civil suit. Marinakos was hired by Basciano to oversee the demolition of the City Center building. According to evidence produced by plaintiffs’ lawyers, Marinakos had no prior experience in commercial demolition, and therefore was not prepared or equipped to oversee the demolition of the four-story building. What’s more, Marinakos also suggested that Basciano hire Griffin Campbell (who was also named in the suit) to oversee the demolition, a recommendation that Basciano eagerly accepted without conducting enough research into Campbell’s background. Had he investigated Campbell more thoroughly, Basciano would have discovered that, like Marinakos, Campbell was inexperienced in demolition, and was also an unlicensed contractor.
Basciano was determined to be 18 percent responsible for harm caused to shoppers on that fateful day, and 68 percent responsible for harm to workers within the Salvation Army. During testimony, Basciano stated that he was brokenhearted over what happened. In an interview after the verdict, it was apparent that at least one juror did not accept that testimony.
Campbell, as well as his excavation operator, Sean Benschop, have faced criminal convictions as a result of their roles in the disaster, and are both serving incarceration terms as a result.
How the money will be divided amongst the families of the seven people who were killed, as well as the additional dozen who were injured, is yet to be determined. This decision will be made by an arbitrator.
Experienced CPR Attorneys Help Achieve Victory for Plaintiffs
Multiple experienced Philadelphia personal injury attorneys were involved in the representation of the plaintiffs and the success of the case. Our law firm is proud of our lawyers’ service during this case, and their contribution to this historic outcome on behalf of plaintiffs. If you have been injured due to the negligence of another and want to learn more about your legal options, please contact our law firm today for your free, confidential case consultation.