COMMON PLEAS Judge Mark Bernstein ruled yesterday that lawyers may immediately depose a woman who lost her legs during the Market Street building collapse in June and is now in danger of losing her life.
Bernstein's decision reverses part of a previous ruling that put the brakes on civil cases while criminal proceedings unfold in the disaster.
Mariya Plekan was buried under rubble for 13 hours after the collapse, which killed six people and has led to lawsuits against property owners of the site, a construction contractor, an excavator operator and others.
Two weeks ago, Bernstein issued a nine-month stay on the civil cases while a grand jury explores criminal violations. Sean Benschop, the excavator operator who was found to have marijuana in his system at the time of the collapse, already faces six counts of involuntary manslaughter.
Bernstein ruled yesterday that discovery of evidence for the civil cases may begin. Depositions are still on hold, with the exception of Plekan.
Her lawyer, Andrew Stern, presented Bernstein with video testimony from a doctor at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania who is treating Plekan and said her condition is precarious.
"She is at risk for sudden death. She's not out of the woods yet," Stern said. "It'll be several months before that happens."
Although Plekan is severely disabled, Stern said, "her brain is normal and her understanding of things is good."