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New L&I rule may be out of proportion to family’s grief

7/25/2014 | Real Estate Blog

Progress continues in the city’s efforts to transform Department of Licenses and Inspections procedures, according to Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. The city made a commitment to its residents following the June 5, 2013, Market Street building collapse, and a new signage regulation unveiled last week is part of that initiative, he continued. For critics of L&I and, perhaps, the mayor, the new rule is fine; their questions concern the reason the city took so long to develop a regulation about signage.

A few days after the rule’s debut, the family of a man who died in the collapse proved just how long it is taking for the victims and the city to recover. The family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Salvation Army, the contractor, the architect, the company that owned the building and that company’s owner.

The family notes that the 59-year-old truck driver is the seventh victim of the construction accident. Rescuers pulled him from the rubble an hour after the collapse, but he died 23 days later. According to the attorney for his estate, the victim was shopping in the thrift store when the building came down. Buried in the debris with both legs broken and struggling for air, he suffered a minor heart attack before he was freed. The heart attack and his injuries exacerbated other health problems that ultimately led to his death.

But back to the signs. Every construction and demolition site must post signs that provide specific information about the project, including, among other things, the name of the contractor, work completion date and contact information for people to report any possible violations or dangerous conditions. The signs must be posted in areas easily viewed by passersby, and they must be 3 feet by 5 feet if the building is four stories high or higher, or 11 inches by 17 inches for buildings less than four stories high.

Again, critics of L&I may protest that while the signs are fine, they in no way get the city off the hook for lapses in inspection and enforcement regulations.


Philadelphia Business Journal, “Construction signage requirements changed by L&I,” Jared Shelly, July 18, 2014, “Family claims wall collapse caused a seventh death,” Claudia Vargas (Philadelphia Inquirer), July 23, 2014