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Salvation Army building collapse sparks liability suits

The search for survivors or victims killed is over at the site of that collapsed Salvation Army thrift store in eastern Pennsylvania. But the fallout from the disaster is only just beginning to build.

Six people were killed in a deluge of bricks, mortar and other detritus when the remains of a four-story building next to the store in Philadelphia toppled on top of it last week. Within days of the collapse, suspicions formed that a crane operator who might have been under the influence of marijuana was responsible for the collapse. 

Police say the man, 42, has a long police record that includes drug crime infractions. He has since turned himself in has been charged. The allegations against him include six counts of involuntary manslaughter and 13 counts of reckless endangerment. He also is accused of a count of risking catastrophe. His attorney is denying that his client was responsible.

Meanwhile, at least four people have filed liability suits in connection with the case. They have named the property owner, STB Investments, and the demolition contracting company as the defendants in the case.

News reports about the legal actions don't detail the specific claims. However attorneys for the plaintiffs are quoted by news media as saying that the evidence they've seen suggests that efforts were not made to prevent unsafe conditions. They say the nature of the old building was such that demolition by hand was called for, not heavy equipment like a crane.

They also note that the permit for the demolition job indicates that the fee paid for the work was $10,000. They say that at that price point, they wonder whether an appropriate engineering survey was done before the work was undertaken.

Source: TribLive.com, "Plaintiffs’ attorney says Philadelphia victims paid price of demolition," Associated Press, June 9, 2013

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