A $227 million Center City building collapse settlement has been announced just days after a jury began hearing testimony in the damages portion of the structural failure lawsuit. Prior to this, the jury in the Philadelphia building collapse lawsuit found all defendants liable in the tragedy, which killed seven people and injured 12 more. Two contractors who were found to be unqualified in building demolition are currently serving prison sentences for their roles in the disaster.
Philadelphia Building Collapse Killed Seven
Six people died in the June 5, 2013, Philadelphia building collapse, including customers in a Salvation Army thrift store at 22nd and Market Streets in Philadelphia when the wall of a building next door that was under demolition collapsed, crushing the Salvation Army thrift store. A seventh person died around three weeks after the tragedy. Investigators determined the man hired to oversee the demolition of the building and the man carrying out the demolition were both unqualified for the job.
At the time the wall collapsed, Sean Benscop was reportedly using an excavator to carry out building demolition, despite building code regulations requiring unsupported walls to be taken down by hand. He was also using an excavator despite allegedly taking Percocet and marijuana for medical reasons. Benscop is currently serving a sentence of between 7.5 and 15 years in prison.
Meanwhile, Griffin Campbell, hired to oversee the building demolition, allowed the building to be destabilized by gutting it from inside rather than taking it down one floor at a time. Campbell is currently serving between 15 and 30 years in prison.
Jury Assigned Bulk of Liability to Salvation Army, Richard Basciano
The jury in the civil trial had found all six defendants liable for the Center City building collapse. Despite the lack of qualifications on the part of the men carrying out the demolition, the jury put the bulk of the guilt on the Salvation Army and Richard Basciano, the man who owned the building being demolished. The Salvation Army came under fire because it reportedly received warning emails that the wall was unsafe and the thrift store should be shut down. The organization also rejected Basciano’s offer to move the thrift store to a different location and refused to allow contractors access to the thrift store’s roof to carry out the work.
Basciano and his company also faced liability, for hiring workers who were not properly qualified to carry out demolition in an effort to save money. In the cases of the two Salvation Army employees—who under state worker compensation laws are not eligible for money from the Salvation Army—Basciano and his company were assigned higher liability.
Terms of Center City Building Collapse Settlement are Confidential
Despite announcing the $227 Million Center City building collapse settlement, individual amounts and other terms are being kept confidential. The settlement was announced less than a week after the jury began hearing testimony in the damages phase of the lawsuit. Reports indicate that Basciano, the Salvation Army, and other defendants will pay the settlement. Plato Marinakos Jr., an architect for the building project, was also found liable for the structural collapse because he allegedly knew the building was about to fail but did not warn anyone. Marinakos did not face jail time because he was given immunity for cooperating with investigators.
An unnamed source said the Salvation Army would pay $200 million of the Center City building collapse settlement while Basciano will pay $27 million. Marinakos, Campbell, and Benschop will reportedly not pay anything in the settlement. The same source told Philly.com that the Salvation Army’s $100 million liability cap was a factor in the decision to settle the lawsuit.
Anne Bryan was one of the victims who died in the Philadelphia building failure. Her parents, Nancy Winkler and Jay Bryan issued a statement regarding the civil trial.
“We will never get over Anne’s tragic death,” Bryan’s parents said. “This trial, for the first time, shed light on the full story of how and why the collapse—which was so preventable—occurred. We will forever miss Anne, but we will also be eternally grateful for the work of the jury. They sent a strong message that owners have an absolute duty to protect public safety above all.”
The site of the building collapse has been turned into a memorial park.
Salvation Army Issues Statement Following Settlement
Following the announcement of the settlement, the Salvation Army issued a statement. “Our deepest sympathy remains with the victims and their families through this extremely difficult time. We pray for the healing of our community.”
An attorney for one of the victims who survived the building collapse said the Salvation Army was largely to blame for the tragedy, arguing they put profits ahead of safety. His client, Mariya Plekan, was so badly injured in the collapse that the lower half of her body was amputated.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs said the $227 Center City building collapse settlement is the largest negotiated personal injury settlement in state court history. According to reports, an arbitrator will determine how much of the settlement each plaintiff will receive, but those amounts will be kept confidential.