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Lawsuit gaining momentum following building collapse

A lawsuit filed against a Philadelphia contractor involved in a recent building collapse has been picking up steam as the rescue operation slows down. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a Salvation Army worker who was buried under rubble when a building wall being torn down next door collapsed and crashed down onto the thrift store. Since the suit was filed, another plaintiff, a thrift store customer, has joined the suit. In total, six people died and 13 were injured in the workplace accident.

While the contractor himself is being held responsible in the collapse, the accident highlights a bigger issue of light regulations for demolition contractors in Philadelphia. A city councilman has charged that dangerous tear-downs are taking place all over the city. He is calling for a review of the application and inspection process for demolitions. Officials are responding by inspecting the hundreds of demolition sites citywide.

Currently, the state of Pennsylvania does not require licensing for demolition contractors. The city of Philadelphia does not require licensing either. According to the councilman, the city code does not require demolition contractors to demonstrate any skills in building tear-downs.

There is some evidence that the demolition project that collapsed did not follow the OSHA regulation requiring bracing for any freestanding wall that exceeds one story in height. Witnesses claim to have seen a 30-foot section of wall standing unbraced. In addition, a video of the project allegedly showed bricks falling onto a sidewalk as a worker used a backhoe and claw to remove a wall.

The people who were injured in the collapse may be able to collect damages from their lawsuit. A settlement, if awarded, might go toward medical bills and lost wages for the plaintiffs. In addition, the lawsuit might put some pressure on the contractor, and the city to create more strict regulations for demolition contractors. The result may be increased safety for demolition sites around the state.

Source: The Detroit News, "Lawsuit gains speed after Philly building collapse", Michael Rubinkam, Kathy Matheson and Maryclaire Da, June 07, 2013

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