Legal Implications of Philadelphia’s Deadly Building Collapse

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On June 5 two Philadelphia buildings collapsed, killing 6 and injuring at least 13 others.  Contractors were in the process of demolishing an empty building when a four-story wall unexpectedly tumbled into the neighboring Salvation Army thrift store leaving a pile of debris and a cloud of smoke. Philadelphians, and beyond, are searching for answers and debating over who is to blame.

According to reports, the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections had evaluated the demolition site and determined on numerous occasions that the contractors’ actions were acceptable.  On at least one occasion, inspectors specifically noted that complaints of unsafe conditions were “unfounded” and that neighboring properties would not be effected. That conclusion proved to be incorrect.

As clean-up crews attend to the site, and the attorneys for the victims’ families develop their legal theories and strategy, we can expect the considerable finger-pointing to continue.  Those in the cross-fire include the Mayor of Philadelphia, the inspection department and other officials tasked with overseeing the project, the contractors, and the developers, to name a few. Needless to say, reputations are on the line as well as insurance dollars. Time will tell which real estate professionals or others were involved in these proceedings and whether sufficient insurance coverage applies to cover the losses.