by Steve Tawa
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In a stunning development, the jury in the lengthy Salvation Army Thrift Store collapse trial has found all of the defendants liable for the events leading to the disaster, after just four hours of deliberations.
Now, the case moves to the damages phase, which could last another month.
There were no indications that the jury was working swiftly after four-and-a-half months of testimony and arguments from lawyers representing 19 plaintiffs and six defendants.
Suddenly, there was a scramble to reassemble in the courtroom.
The jury forewoman quickly went through the 36-question verdict sheet, finding all defendants liable, especially the Salvation Army and real estate speculator Richard Basciano, who was demolishing the vacant building next to the thrift store.
Jurors were asked to assign a percentage of blame, if any, to the six defendants.
It says with regard to plaintiffs who were customers in the thrift store, the Salvation Army is 75% liable.
As it relates to employees in the store at the time of the sudden collapse, Basciano and his company are 68% at fault.
Employees of the charity, under state worker compensation laws, are unable to get a financial payout from the Army.
The jury found Basiciano and his company 68% liable as it relates to victims who were employed in the store.
Now, the jury returns Friday to begin the damages phase, during which it will decide how much each defendant should pay to those killed and injured.