When special education teacher Allison Friedman stopped into a Philadelphia Lululemon Athletica location to buy a gift, she never thought the errand would have life-changing consequences. Unfortunately, years of neglect had caught up with the adjoining building and it was during Friedman’s visit to the neighboring store that the building finally gave way.
Without warning for the shoppers or employees in the store, part of the wall from the building broke free some six stories up and rained brick and other material down onto the roof below. Friedman suffered extensive injuries during the collapse and required spinal-fusion surgery as a result.
Lululemon was not named in the subsequent lawsuit as the company seemingly had no knowledge of the dangers looming over their storefront. 1529 Street Properties and Pearl Properties, however, were named and claims were filed which stated that the management company and ownership failed to inspect or maintain the 90-year old building, thus leading to the circumstances which allowed for the failure of the structure.
Friedman and the named management companies have settled her case for $6 million.
There is no denying that Philadelphia is a historic city. We are the birthplace of the country, after all. Buildings line Philadelphia streets that have stood in place since before the United States was the United States. This history comes with a price however, and property owners and managers who take ownership of buildings that can easily be upward of 100 years old (if not 200) have a special duty to make sure that not only is the historic integrity of those buildings maintained, but that their structural integrity is maintained as well.
Much has been made lately of the crumbling infrastructure that connects much of the country. From railroads that can’t support high-speed trains and bridges that teeter on being deemed too unsafe to cross to roads that are cratered with potholes, transportation infrastructure could certainly use some attention.
However, in many cases, getting there might only be part of the danger. Owners and managers of older and historic buildings must also do their part to keep the public safe.