A Philadelphia building collapse victim who had both her legs amputated following the tragedy has been given $95.6 million of the $227 million settlement reached with survivors and family members of those killed in the building collapse. Mariya Plekan was the most seriously injured of the people who survived the collapse, which killed seven people and injured 12.
Philadelphia Building Collapse Victim Buried for 13 Hours
Before she was pulled from the rubble, Plekan endured 13 hours buried under debris from the collapsed building. The Philadelphia building collapse victim required removal of the entire lower half of her body from the hips down and has undergone 30 surgeries, according to a lawyer. She has also suffered kidney failure and lost her ability to speak.
Her estimated future medical expenses are expected to be around $50 million because she requires full-time medical care. At the time of the building collapse, the Ukrainian immigrant was shopping in the Salvation Army store.
Arbitrator Determined Awards in Center City Building Collapse Lawsuit
In February 2017, around 15 weeks after the court case began, a $227 million settlement was announced between those entities found responsible for the Philadelphia building collapse and the plaintiffs. An arbitrator for an international dispute resolution firm was tasked with allocating the settlement, although confidentiality rules prevented information about further awards from being released.
In all, six entities were found financially liable for the collapse by the jury: the Salvation Army was found to have ignored warnings about the risks of a collapse; Richard Basciano—and his company—was found to have hired an unskilled contractor to demolish the building next to the thrift store, and Plato A. Marinakos Jr. was responsible for monitoring the building’s demolition. In May 2017, Basciano died at age 91.
Two contractors who carried out the building demolition even though they lacked proper qualifications are serving time in prison for their roles in the tragedy. Sean Benscop was reportedly using an excavator to demolish the building, even though regulations require walls that are not supported be taken apart by hand. Griffin Campbell violated regulations by allowing the building to be demolished from the inside, rather than one floor at a time. The two contractors were each assigned one percent of the blame.
Building Demolition Caused Tragic Structural Collapse
Basciano owned a block of properties next to the Salvation Army Thrift store and had hoped to redevelop those properties. He and Marinaokos hired workers for cut-rate prices to take the building down—Campbell was paid only $112,000 for the job, which was reportedly a fraction of what other applicants charged.
The Salvation Army was found partially liable because it received emails from an aide to the building developer warning that the building was in danger of collapsing. The Salvation Army, however, did not take action on the emails and refused to allow demolition crews access to the roof of the building. Basciano reportedly offered to move the Salvation Army to a different block in a property swap, but the organization refused the offer. As a result of its actions, the Salvation Army was given 75 percent of the liability.
The Salvation Army released a statement when the settlement was initially announced.
“Our deepest sympathy remains with the victims and their families through this extremely difficult time. We pray for the healing of our community. The Salvation Army continues to serve those in need, with compassion, as we have for more than 137 years in Philadelphia.”
Family Speaks Out About Tragedy
In all, 19 plaintiffs were involved in lawsuits concerning the accident, including those who survived and the families of the seven who died. Among the seven who died were two young women who had stopped at the thrift store to give donations and a thrift store employee.
The parents of Anne Bryan, a young Philadelphia building collapse victim, issued a statement about the civil trial.
“This trial, for the first time, shed light on the full story of how and why the collapse—which was so preventable—occurred,” Nancy Winkler and Jay Bryan said. “We will forever miss Anne, but we will also be eternally grateful for the work of the jury.”
Building Collapse Safety
Despite many laws designed to protect the public from building collapses, there are still situations in which building owners, operators, and others responsible for maintaining or repairing buildings cut corners. In such situations, the life of anyone in the buildings is put at risk. The Philadelphia building collapse is a terrible reminder of what can go wrong when regulations are ignored, costs are cut and warnings unheeded.
Unfortunately, the 19 people inside the Salvation Army thrift store at the time of the structural failure paid dearly for someone else’s decisions.