Philadelphia building collapse

Jun. 10th, 2013   /   ,

Philadelphia building collapse

 

On June 5th, at the corner of Market St. and 22nd St. in center-city Philadelphia, a four-story building, in the process of demolition, collapsed prematurely and unexpectedly over an adjacent thrift shop, wreaking havoc on those inside and the community at large. At the time of this blog writing, a total of six individuals have died due to the injuries, with over a dozen more still reeling from the injuries inflicted by the building collapse. In this blog, we are going to look at two legal angles of this issue, one of which may have a serious personal injury skew to it.

First, there is the issue of the crane operator who, according to toxicology reports, at the time of the building collapse, had marijuana in his system. A warrant was subsequently issued for his arrest and the man turned himself in and is now facing six involuntary manslaughter charges, over a dozen counts of reckless endangerment, and one charge of risking a catastrophe. These are criminal issues, as the man in question is being held in jail. The mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, has demanded that he face the serious charges and be punished to the fullest extent of the law. The defendant’s lawyer, however, defended his client despite the toxicology report. The defense attorney noted that his client is an experienced crane operator who has been commended in the past for his care for safety while on the job. (Note: this particular part of the case will be interesting from the perspective of the legalization of marijuana – opponents of legalization will point to this as evidence of the harmful effects of marijuana and proponents may argue that the accident was not caused by marijuana at all).

Now, as mentioned above, the man in facing charges was the crane operator on the demolition site. According to one Philadelphia news outlet, Philadelphia city law stipulates that if a building undergoing demolition is situated next to an occupied building, the demolition building must be brought down manually – i.e., not with the use of a crane or any similar large machinery. Here’s where our second legal issue comes into play: the culpability of the construction company and the very viable notion that perhaps this was more than just a freak accident. According to many early reports, in addition to the possible aforementioned damning breach of city law, there were many facets of the demolition site that were cause for concern. The major wall that gave in and served as the catalyst for the collapse, experts say, was not properly braced for demolition. According to Helen Ubinas, who penned a June 7 article for Philly.com regarding this issue, “the demo was so screwed up, [people] were literally waiting for the building to collapse.” In fact, the company given the permits to oversee the construction was run by a man who has a lengthy criminal record and a history of violations on other construction sites. This is the part of the case where we may see personal injury lawsuits arise.

It is quite likely that families of the deceased victims, and those who survived with injuries, will file lawsuits against the (possibly) negligent construction/demolition company (the one who both hired the previously mentioned crane operator and failed to properly secure the area) for hefty damages – and maybe even against the city for issuing the construction permits to known violators of protocol. The investigation is still in the very early stages and, as such, all of the relevant facts have yet to surface. We will be sure to keep you abreast of any developments in legal issues emanating from this horrific tragedy in downtown Philadelphia.

For any questions about this or any other legal issue, please feel free to contact us at the Law Offices of Aronberg and Aronberg for a free consultation. You may reach us at 561-266-9191 or daronberg@aronberglaw.com.

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