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Salvation Army, developer, others named in building collapse suit p3

10/12/2013 | Construction Blog, Real Estate Blog

We are continuing the story of the Salvation Army Thrift Store building collapse, as related in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by parents of one of the six victims.

The developer was aware of the risks, the complaint says, but continued with the demolition. The Salvation Army was slow to respond to the concerns expressed by the developer until the demolition was almost completed.

Once again, though, the Salvation Army seems to have failed to grasp the import of the developer’s inquiries, the complaint says. The thrift store would remain open during demolition, the Salvation Army said, although there was some concern about “displayed items.”

According to the plaintiff, the developer failed to take at least one critical step before the sledgehammers began to swing. The firm failed to obtain an engineering survey of the site. The survey, required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, would have determined if there was the “possibility of unplanned collapse” at the site.

The developer took another questionable step, the plaintiff alleges. This one was not a regulatory violation but may have showed that the developer was deliberately ignoring the risks at the site. The developer chose the lowest bidder for the project. The implication is that the decision was based solely on price, not on experience with tricky demolitions or compliance with safety regulations.

So, with no plan for the safe demolition of a building adjacent to a structurally compromised building that would likely be full of staff and customers, the developer moved ahead. The construction company went to work.

The complaint alleges that yet another OSHA violation occurred at this stage. OSHA requires buildings to be demolished from the top down. That did not happen here. The result was the freestanding four-story wall that eventually collapsed onto the thrift store. The wall was not braced, and without lateral support there was nothing to keep it from toppling.

All of this, the plaintiffs claim, amounted to intentional and fraudulent misrepresentation, negligence and the wrongful death of their daughter. The 24-year-old college student died twelve hours after the wall came down. According to the complaint, she had suffered blunt trauma, crush injuries and asphyxiation in the collapse. Her parents are asking for compensatory and punitive damages.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “Salvation Army Faces Wrongful Death Claim,” Cheryl Armstrong, Sept. 20, 2013