$227 Million Settlement Reached in Market Street Building Collapse Case

February 8th, 2017 by Wapner Newman

Legal Award

Wapner, Newman, Wigrizer, Brecher & Miller is proud that the long civil trial stemming from the 2013 building collapse on Market Street has concluded with a $227 million settlement, which is believed to be the largest personal injury settlement in Pennsylvania history. After only four hours of deliberation, the jury returned a unanimous verdict and decided the Salvation Army was 75% responsible.

Steven Wigrizer“The important message to the Philadelphia business community is that the safety of your employees and customers needs to be your number one priority,” said Steven Wigrizer. “It is more important than your business plan, growth or profits. If you forget that message in this city, there will be accountability.”

“I am very proud right now. I’m proud of our trial team,” Wigrizer said. “I’m especially proud of the survivors and the families of those who didn’t survive for seeing this through to the conclusion, despite the emotional toil. I am proud of our court system and Judge Sarmina, who along with the lawyers, worked day and night throughout this five-month trial. I am proud to be a Philadelphian today.”

Jason S WeissThe collapse led to the death of seven people and the injuries of 12 other victims. Survivors of the deceased victims, along with victims injured in the collapse, were represented by attorneys from four different law firms, including Steven G. Wigrizer and Jason S. Weiss from Wapner, Newman, Wigrizer, Brecher & Miller. In addition to Mr. Wigrizer and Mr. Weiss, the members of the talented Plaintiffs’ trial team who represented the seven individuals who died as a result of this tragedy include Robert J. Mongeluzzi and Jeffrey P. Goodman of Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky, Harry M. Roth and James Begley of Cohen, Placitella, & Roth, and Adam Grutzmacher of Clearfield & Kofsky.

Steve Wigrizer and Jason Weiss represented the families of two victims in the building collapse, the family of Mary Simpson and the family of Roseline Conteh.

The Lives Lost…

Mary Simpson was only 24 years old when she died. She was an aspiring audio engineer who fully devoted herself to her music. She deeply believed in the power and possibility that music could unify a people regardless of differences in race, faith, gender or other divisions.

Roseline Conteh was a 52-year-old nursing assistant. She came to this country from Sierra Leone in Africa, a country engulfed in civil war for 11 years, during which she lost her mother. From sheer determination, hard work and luck, she made it to the United States, though she had to leave her family behind. Eventually, she brought her husband and other family members to the United States, too.

Roseline educated herself and went to school, taking two jobs and working six days a week. She died on a Wednesday, her only day off. She liked to go to the Salvation Army to purchase clothing for her family, here and in Sierra Leone. Her nickname was ‘Ma’. Active in her community, she never turned anyone down; whenever anyone needed anything, they went to Ma’s house.

Last week, a jury determined that two New York companies engaged in reckless and outrageous behavior, resulting in seven killed and 12 injured – all of whom were in the Salvation Army. The jury found that the Salvation Army was 75 percent responsible for the tragedy.

At the time that the contractor and excavator were being prosecuted, our attorneys told the media that there was a larger story that needed to be told. It was that story that the attorneys told during this case. The jury obviously agreed with their assessment: the two individuals who were criminally prosecuted were only held 1 percent responsible for the collapse, while the jury held the Salvation Army primarily responsible for the loss of life and trauma of all victims.

The tragic building collapse, like so many other tragedies, did not have to happen. This civil trial provides relief to the victims of that collapse, but it also sends a strong message to businesses that safety should always be a top priority. We’re proud of Steve Wigrizer and Jason Weiss for the work they’ve done and the message they’ve sent.

The results of this case are a testament to the power of the United States’ legal system.

“One of the jurors came up to me and gave me a hug. She was from Bosnia,” Wigrizer said. “In Bosnia, they don’t have the right to file civil cases. She felt so thankful to be an American where ordinary people can go into a courtroom and have lawyers working for them to fight for justice. I’m also proud to be an American today.”