PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A multi-million dollar settlement has been reached in the deadly Salvation Army store collapse.
According to CBS 3’s David Spunt and KYW Newsradio’s Steve Tawa, sevent people died and 12 were hurt when the store on 22nd and Market Streets collapsed in June 2013.READ MORE: Sources: Missing Bucks County Woman Casey Johnston's Car Found In Northeast Philadelphia
Lawyers say the settlement is worth $227 million, but each individual victim’s amount is confidential. It is being called the largest payout of its kind in Pennsylvania’s court history.
A building owned by real estate speculator Richard Basciano was being demolished and it collapsed onto the Salvation Army thrift store.
“Our deepest sympathy remains with the victims and their families through this extremely difficult time,” the Salvation Army said in a statement. “We pray for the healing of our community. The Salvation Army continues to serve those in need, with compassion, as we have for more than 137 years in Philadelphia.”
Lead plaintiff’s attorney Robert Mongeluzzi says the $227 million settlement “cannot erase the tragedy and horror” of what happened to shoppers and workers when the thrift store at 22nd and Market Streets collapsed. But, Mongeluzzi says the jury’s verdict in the liability phase sent a clear message to business owners, developers and contractors.
“We will not permit you to put profits or safety. We will not let you flaunt safety laws, and we will hold you accountable,” Mongeluzzi said.
Juror Aaron Pryer says while “there were a lot of moving parts, the evidence was clear on who was at fault,” and that swift verdict on liability led to the settlement.
“It didn’t take us long to deliberate, so I guess they probably figured that we had our minds made up,” Pryer said.
Another juror, Syreeta Harrison, says they were firm on ensuring that victims and their families were compensated for their losses.READ MORE: 1 Day, 8 Tornadoes: A Look At This Week's Severe Weather Across The Tri-State Area
“I don’t know if accident is the correct term, because the evidence showed it could have been prevented,” Harrison said.
Another juror, Tim Vinson, says there’s “no price that will return human life and the suffering.”
“My heart goes out to everyone who was affected,” said Vinson.
He says they the evidence clearly showed the disaster could have been avoided.
“It’s a sad case with persons involved putting profit before the human element,” said Vinson.
Kadietu Conteh’s sister, 52-year-old Roseline Conteh, was among those killed.
“It’s not because of the money. I’m glad what the jurors did to the business people, not to always look about money, but also for the safety of the community,” Conteh said.
Roseline Conteh’s son, Francis Sankoh, said the pain of losing his mother will never go away.
“We are somewhat pleased that protocols have been set in place in order to prevent other lives from falling,” said Sankoh.MORE NEWS: Philadelphia Restaurants Martha, Irwin's Upstairs To Require Proof Of COVID-19 Vaccination For Indoor Dining
Under terms of the agreement, all parties are not saying how much each defendant will pay out, but sources say the Salvation Army will fork over the bulk of the damages, and the rest will come from building owner Richard Basciano. An arbitrator will determine how much money is allocated to each plaintiff in the coming months.