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Salvation army building collapse—largest settlement in Pennsylvania’s history

Posted on February 12th, 2017

Helping our clients through tragedy

On June 5, 2013 Felicia Hill went to work at the Salvation Army retail store in Philadelphia. Despite expressing concerns in the days and weeks before about the demolition occurring in the adjacent building—about the noise, dust coming off the walls, bricks falling on the roof—Ms. Hill had no choice but to come to work. She had a large family to support and bills to pay.

The building being demolished was part of several buildings owned by Richard Basciano who was tearing them down to make apartments. He had hired a cheap demolition company that had little regard for safety and procedure. Next to the Salvation Army store was a four-story building—one where the demolition team had ineptly taken down from the inside while leaving the bricks walls unsupported. Several people involved knew this was a horrible situation and that people could die, but did nothing to stop it. (The construction contractor, Griffin Campbell, and excavator operator, Sean Benschop, would later both receive long prison sentences). The Salvation Army had also received numerous warnings of the potential catastrophe, but did nothing. In fact, Basciano’s company had notified the Salvation Army several times of the potential of an uncontrolled collapse causing death and injury.

As many Philadelphians know, tragedy struck that day. The four-story building under demolition collapsed onto the adjacent Salvation Army store. Seven people died and twelve were injured. Ms. Hill watched coworkers die as the building crumpled around her. Grieving and stricken she did not know where to turn. She reached out to attorney Emmett Madden at ThePhillyLawyers and they immediately arranged to meet. With small children at home and unsure about her employment situation, Mr. Madden met at her house and discussed the recent horrible events.

Knowing action was needed quickly, Mr. Madden began connecting with the other premiere plaintiff attorneys in the city. The next day, Ms. Hill was the subject of a national press conference where she told her story.

Felicia and Emmett

In the months and years following, it was important that Ms. Hill knew what the next steps would be. Emmett Madden developed a relationship with her, her fiancé, and the children. Any time there was a question about the case or any other matters, Ms. Hill and her family knew that they could rely on Mr. Madden’s guidance. Whether it was making sure she received the much needed medical and mental health treatment to help her continue to work and raise her children, or making sure that she was compensated through workers’ compensation. As litigation began to appear imminent and trial preparation was needed, Ms. Hill was accompanied by Mr. Madden to every meeting and preparation session. She was the first witness called in the trial and vital to the presentation of this case. She set the stage and was a big reason why the jury could understand the full breath of this tragedy.

When tragedy strikes, it is important to have a lawyer who respects you as a person, who is always available, and who will answer your calls and questions. It is also important to have a lawyer who has access to all the best resources in the City of Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania.

On Wednesday, February 8th 2017, a settlement was reached where $227 million in damages will be paid to the 19 plaintiffs. It is the largest settlement in Pennsylvania’s history.