Collapse victim files lawsuit, claims negligence, recklessness

View from 22nd Street of the Salvation Army thrift shop, moments after an adjacent building under demolition toppled onto it, killing six people inside.

An Overbrook woman who was injured in last week's building collapse on Market Street filed a lawsuit today against the contractor, site owner, permit expediter and the Salvation Army.

Shirley Ball, 60, is seeking more than $50,000 for injuries to her head, back, shoulder, knees, elbows and neck she suffered in the June 5 collapse, according to the 40-page complaint filed in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court.

At least six other victims have also initiated lawsuits.

Ball was shopping at the Salvation Army thrift shop at 22nd and Market Streets when a worker operating an excavator to demolish a four-story building next-door pulled away a support beam, sending the structure toppling onto the shop. The incident left six dead and 14 injured and sparked controversy over whether the city monitors such work closely enough to ensure public safety.

Ball had been standing near the wall closest to the demolition site when the collapse occurred, her attorney James D. Golkow said.

"Shirley heard a loud boom before she realized what was going on," Golkow said. "She was covered with rubble and trapped next to what she thinks was a bannister."

Firefighters dug her out, and paramedics rushed her to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where she was discharged later that day. She sought follow-up treatment at Bryn Mawr Hospital, Golkow added.

The lawsuit alleges negligence and recklessness on the part of building owner Richard Basciano, who hired contractor Griffin Campbell "for a grossly inadequate sum, an obvious indicator the contractor was incompetent to handle the job," Golkow said. Besides Basciano and Campbell and their companies, the lawsuit also names as defendants the Salvation Army and Plato Marinakos Jr., the architect who obtained the permit for Campbell to do the demolition project.

Workers should not have used heavy equipment to demolish a building next to an occupied structure, but instead should have done the work by hand, the lawsuit contends. Further, Basciano hired "incompetent and unskilled contractors and workmen," the suit states. Sean Benschop, the North Philly worker who was behind the excavator's controls, was arrested Saturday for involuntary manslaughter and related offenses after toxicology tests showed he had marijuana and painkillers in his system at the time of the collapse.

Before the collapse, Ball ran a catering business, Golkow said. She has been unable to return to work since the collapse and suffers from "stress, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and flashbacks," he added. Ball's husband Stanley also is listed as a plaintiff and claims a loss of consortium.