PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Opening statements are underway in the civil trial to determine if anyone is financially liable for the 2013 Market Street building collapse. Six people died and 13 were hurt.
Plaintiff’s lawyer Robert Mongeluzzi told jurors “this was no accident.” He maintains “the tragedy of this horror was expected and predicted.”
As he opened, a large screen displayed video and still photos of the collapse. He told jurors the building owner Richard Basciano selected a property manager and architect “with no demolition experience” and an “incompetent” demolition contractor whose sole experience was “tearing down two burned out row homes.”
Mongeluzzi says “it was the blind leading the blind leading the blind.”
The plaintiffs’ lawyers maintain there’s evidence that the property manager, Thomas Simmonds wrote at least seven emails warning about the threat of a collapse in the month before it happened. They also contend the Salvation Army ignored his warnings about the “threat to life and limb,” and the organization was “indifferent” before the collapse – never discussing the issue with employees.
Lawyer Steven Wigrizer and Andy Stern, also representing victims and surviving family members, say the Salvation Army should have temporarily closed the store while it investigated the shoddy demolition work. Mongeluzzi added the Salvation Army didn’t live up to its mission statement of “doing the most good.”
After three plaintiffs’ lawyers gave their pitches, defense lawyers Jack Snyder, representing the Salvation Army, and Peter Greiner, representing Basciano, moved for a mistrial, claiming their opponents made “arguments,” and unfairly framed video-taped depositions as “evidence.”
Judge Teresa Sarmina denied their motions.