Trials & Litigation
Death suit says thrift store struck by falling debris failed to cooperate with demolition
By Martha Neil
Sep 3, 2013, 04:45 pm CST
The first wrongful death suit has been filed after the partial collapse of a building under demolition in Philadelphia earlier this year, pointing the finger not only at those responsible for the demolition but the adjacent shop in which multiple people were killed after a wall fell onto its roof.
Mary Lea Simpson was asphyxiated along with her best friend as they lay trapped in the rubble of a Salvation Army Thrift Store where they had been shopping. Attorney Steven Wigrizer, who represents her survivors, says the store, contacted in advance by the developers, should have done more to protect its customers, NBC 10 Philadelphia reports.
"If you are an adjacent building operator and you are made aware of the risk presented, the risk of potential collapse, you shut your business down," he said. "You don't allow patrons like Mary Simpson and the others to be in that place and subject them to that risk. That's what this case is about."
The Salvation Army had been negotiating with developer Richard Basciano, through his company, STB Investments, about how to handle the demolition.
However, the Salvation Army reportedly may not have been made aware that demolition was actually about to begin on a nearby wall. And, says attorney Eric Weiss, who represents the nonprofit, "The Salvation Army was never aware or made aware of a danger of collapse."
Wigrizer's prior wrongful death cases include litigation against Basciano over a Philadelphia judge killed in 1997 when a garage partially collapsed. That shows, he contends, that "there's a pattern and practice of negligence here," he said Tuesday, the Associated Press reports.
Neither article includes any comment by the developer or legal counsel for him or his company.
Other civil litigation related to the building collapse is pending as well.
ABAJournal.com: "Crane operator jailed in deadly Philadelphia building collapse; civil suits point finger at others"