A global settlement worth more than $101 million
has been reached in the massive litigation stemming from the
October 2003 collapse of the Tropicana Casino parking garage in
Atlantic City that killed four construction workers and injured 30
Lead plaintiffs attorneys Robert J. Mongeluzzi and Larry
Bendesky of Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky said the deal
represents the largest settlement ever of a construction accident
case. "This project collapsed for a very simple reason - the floors
were not connected to the walls," Mongeluzzi said.
Bendesky said that "the simple explanation of the cause of the
collapse is that the floors were not connected to the walls with
the required reinforcing steel. Built without the necessary steel,
it is no wonder it collapsed like a house of cards."
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration said in a
2004 report that a lack of steel reinforcements in the parking
garage's concrete and inadequate support for the completed floors
were to blame for the collapse of the garage's top five levels.
The 2,400-space garage was being built as part of a $265 million
Tropicana expansion called The Quarter, which included upscale
shops, restaurants and clubs to go along with Atlantic City
In a statement issued Wednesday, the Tropicana said it was
"grateful that the litigation surrounding this tragic event has
If the case had gone to trial in June as scheduled, plaintiffs
lawyers said, the trial was expected to last six months.
Under the terms of the settlement, the plaintiffs will be paid
$82.5 million in cash and more than $16 million in medical expenses
- about $8.2 million of workers' compensation payments to victims
that will not have to be repaid, and more than $8.3 million in
future medical expenses.
Combined with $2 million in previously settled cases, the total
settlement from all of the defendants is $101 million.
The amounts of the various contributions by the settling
defendants were not disclosed.
Participating in the settlement were Tropicana; Keating Building
Corp., the general contractor; Midstate Filigree Systems Inc.; Fabi
Construction Inc., the concrete subcontractor; DeSimone Consulting
Engineers, the project's structural engineer; and Site-Blauvelt
Engineers, which inspected the concrete and reinforcing steel.
In addition to Mongeluzzi and Bendesky, the plaintiffs' team
included attorneys Paul D'Amato of Linwood, N.J., and Michael
Maggiano of Fort Lee, N.J.
Mongeluzzi said trial preparation by the plaintiffs' attorneys
included taking nearly 250 depositions and reviewing more than 1.5
million pages of documents.
Atlantic County Superior Court Judge William E. Nugent presided
over the lengthy pre-trial discovery, and Judge Stephen P. Perskie
conducted the settlement discussions.
Bendesky credited Perskie with doing an "exceptional job" in
overseeing the settlement talks, noting that he often worked
"nights and weekends."
The fatalities, all New Jersey residents, were Michael Wittland,
53, of Pleasantville and James Bigelow, 29, of Egg Harbor Township,
both iron workers; and Robert Tartaglio Jr., 42, of Galloway
Township and Scott Pietrosante, 21, of Milmay, Buena Vista
Township, laborers for Fabi.
Wittland was just six months short of retirement after 35 years
as an ironworker. Edward Wittland, his eldest son, suffered a
broken neck and was one of the most critically injured in the