A woman injured when bricks from an adjacent building crashed through a Lululemon store has settled her lawsuit against the property owner for $6 million.
Nearly four years after the wall of an adjacent office building came crashing through the roof of the Lululemon store in Center City Philadelphia, SM&B lawyers Robert Mongeluzzi and Jeffrey Goodman have obtained a $6,000,000 settlement for their client Allison Friedman–the most seriously injured victim of the January 2015 building collapse.
In accordance with the settlement agreement, defendants 1529 Walnut Street Associates, L.P. and the property manager will pay $6,000,000 to Friedman and her husband who brought various claims against the six-story building’s owner and property manager in a lawsuit filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Lululemon and its building’s owner were not defendants in the case.
This was a case where I think we’ve achieved an incredible result. Allie had significant injuries, but even based on her injuries, the settlement amount is an outlier. Our exhaustive discovery was key because we were able to prove there was early notice of a defect in the building.
Robert J. Mongeluzzi
It was around 3:30 in the afternoon on January 27, 2015 when an elevator shaft on the side of the building at 1529 Walnut Street collapsed onto the roof of the Lululemon store next door. Friedman was one of the three shoppers trapped in the rubble created by hundreds of bricks crushing the store’s roof, ceiling, lighting and side walls.
Friedman, a special education teacher, required rotator cuff surgery and major spinal fusion surgery to repair some of the damage caused by her back, neck and shoulder injuries. She retained SM&B based on its national reputation for handling high-profile building collapse cases, such as the Salvation Army collapse (also involving a Center City Philadelphia building) and the Tropicana casino parking garage collapse in Atlantic City.
Mongeluzzi is considered a national authority on construction and building maintenance standards of care. When SM&B filed its suit in 2016, he commented that “Properly maintained buildings don’t collapse on their neighbors.” Based on the Firm’s yearlong investigation of the Lululemon incident prior to filing the complaint in Friedman’s case, he explained that the Firm would show that “the defendants knew or should have known there was a serious accident waiting to occur as that masonry wall would predictably, repeatedly freeze then thaw, and lose structural integrity until it became totally unstable.”
Friedman never imagined that stopping in the store, on a school snow day to buy a birthday gift for a friend, would change her life forever. “I could not have been happier that afternoon,” she explained. “Recently married to the love of my life, fulfilled every day working with my amazing students, and then, in a heartbeat, that beautiful world came crashing down.”
According to Goodman, the settlement amount reflects the cost of the extensive, ongoing medical care and rehabilitation that Friedman’s various orthopedic injuries will require for the rest of her life, as well as the impact the building collapse has had on her personal life and teaching career. She continues to suffer pain from her injuries and a reduced range of motion in her right shoulder.
Mongeluzzi said a central factor driving the settlement was the property inspection report from the owner’s purchase of the building because it showed the defendants knew about an existing defect.