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After Philly Building Collapse, Lawsuit Filed

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on June 10, 2013 9:15 AM

A contractor blamed for causing a deadly Philadelphia building collapse last week is being held without bail. One injured victim has already filed a lawsuit, and more are likely.

Police say crane operator Sean Benschop, 43, tested positive for marijuana after the collapse that killed six people at a thrift store next to a demolition site. Benschop faces six counts of involuntary manslaughter and 13 counts of recklessly endangering another person, Reuters reports. Benschop's lawyer insists his client is not guilty, and that the building collapse was an accident.

But if there was indeed reckless action that led to the collapse, then the negligent parties may soon face a heap of legal trouble.

Building Contractors Suspected

As the dust settled Thursday, attorney Robert Mongeluzzi was at the scene, proclaiming that it was "the most egregious construction accident" he's ever been involved with, reports the Associated Press. Mongeluzzi filed a lawsuit Thursday on behalf of a woman who survived the collapse after being pulled from the rubble.

Mongeluzzi suspects the demolition contractor is at fault and likely violated several federal safety regulations, which could lead to automatic liability for per se negligence.

Any of the construction project's supervisors may also be liable for negligently hiring an employee responsible for the collapse of the Philadelphia building.

Crane Operator Allegedly Intoxicated

The building collapse may have been the result of many factors, but if any fault lies with the crane operator, his allegedly intoxicated state is fairly damning.

A source with Philadelphia's City Hall confirmed on Friday that the crane operator in question had "marijuana and pain medication" in his blood, CNN reports.

Intentionally operating heavy construction machinery like a crane while intoxicated is reckless behavior. Similar to damages caused by a drunk driver, the intoxicated crane operator will likely be held legally responsible for any injuries related to his actions.

Wrongful Death Suits Likely

Relatives of the six victims who died in the Philadelphia building collapse are entitled to sue for wrongful death. Crane operator Sean Benschop is the most likely target of these suits, considering the criminal charges against him -- though liability may also potentially fall on his employer, or other parties involved.

A wrongful death verdict is almost certain if a jury convicts Benschop of involuntary manslaughter, as the burden of proof is higher in criminal court than in civil.

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