Tragedy struck New Orleans residents on October 12th, 2019. The Hard Rock Hotel, which was under construction at the edge of the city’s famous French Quarter, collapsed early morning. The top sections of the building gave way, causing massive devastation. Reports place the death toll at 3, and about 30 people sustained injuries. Only one body has been recovered so far.

Two construction cranes blocking the debris were toppled over with strategically placed explosives. Search teams have begun clearing the rubble to recover and identify the other two bodies. Fire Superintendent Timothy McConnell said initial assessments indicate that both bodies are roughly in the same location and have not been moved by the demolition. The explosives were directed to ensure that the cranes landed away from the bodies. Although expected, the falling cranes caused significant collateral damage, including a damaged sewer line.

The area has been cordoned off to contain the damage. But these precautions have delayed identification of the deceased, increasing the local community’s collective feeling of distress.

The deaths caused by this preventable disaster, unfortunately, are only one facet of the after-effects. Amidst the rage of the deceased’s family members and mental anguish of local residents, several allegations were made. The developers and designers behind this construction project took major backlash following the collapse. The victims’ families have accused the developers of

  • Negligence to identify and rectify structural liabilities like failing support beams.
  • Poor engineering practices like erroneous pile load tests and incorrect concrete cure times.
  • Fatal flaws in the structural and architectural design.
  • Lack of proper planning, oversight, and supervision.
  • Legally and ethically dubious ‘shortcuts’ in the construction process.
  • Unskilled and unspecialized workers were employed to cut spending.
  • Failure to provide workers with the right equipment and a safe working environment.

Wrongful death lawsuits were filed against Citadel Builders, who is currently the primary defendant. The other defendants named in at least 12 lawsuits include 1031 Canal Development LLC, Kailas Companies, Harry Baker Smith Architects, Heaslip Engineering and All Star Electric.

Several injury victims, business owners, and homeowners have come forward and initiated legal proceedings against the defendants. Victims claim that the reckless attitude of the companies involved has not only caused deaths, but also considerable collateral damage. The consequences of this tragedy will have far-reaching negative impacts on the physical and mental well-being of the people involved. The lives and safety of the construction workers was not the priority of the companies involved.

Reports indicate that debris removal, search efforts, police and firefighter diversions. And other expenditures are costing the city government up to $400,000 a day.

However, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell told ABC News that the preliminary investigation into the incident showed the presence of proper permits, clearances, paperwork, and code-compliant construction practices.

If the investigation should prove negligence on the part of the defendants, proper litigious action will be carried out and they will be required to compensate the victims and cover the city’s costs.

The Florida International University case of March 2018 serves as a precedent incident. A pedestrian bridge collapsed, killing 6 people and injuring several others. Every developer and designer involved was targeted with a lawsuit to ensure that justice is done to the victim’s family.

Alvendia, Kelly and Demarest (AKD Law) on Wednesday, October the 16, along with a consortium of New Orleans advocates filed a suit requesting that Class Action status be granted to protect residents, property, and business owners as well as employees and other parties that suffered economic damages caused due to the Hard Rock Hotel’s collapse.

A person can file a wrongful death lawsuit under the Louisiana Civil Code Section 2512.2, which defines wrongful death as “a person dies due to the fault of another.”

A surviving member of the family including a wife, children, siblings, etc. can claim damages. The scenarios can range from lost wages, mental anguish caused by the incident, medical bills, burial/funeral expenses, and the loss of emotional support and familial connections between loved ones.

People caught in the toxic dusty environment of the building’s collapse are eligible to claim injury damages. If local business owners can definitively prove loss of business, monetary losses, damages to property or person, they are eligible to file for a lawsuit too.

There are Statue of Limitation clauses that come attached to such lawsuits. The Statute of Limitations for a wrongful death lawsuit is one year. Loved ones have to stay strong during this grievous period of their lives and pursue compensation in a timely manner. This ensures not only their financial stability for the foreseeable future but also that justice is served to the guilty parties.

Contact AKD Law for a consultation to explore different options.