Largest Personal Injury Settlement In Pennsylvania
55-year-old Ukrainian immigrant Mariya Plekan was shopping in a Salvation Army she often frequented four years ago, on June 5, 2013, when the store was hit with debris from an abandoned building being demolished nearby. The freak incident killed seven people and caused injury to twelve others, and a settlement was subsequently sought by the survivors and family members of the deceased.
In January, a jury found the Salvation Army and the developer who hired the demo contractor, New York real estate speculator Richard Basciano, financially liable for the collapse. The contractor himself, Griffin Campbell, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced in January 2016 to 15 to 30 years in prison. The only other person to face criminal charges was excavator operator Sean Benschop, who was sentenced to 7-and-a half to to 15 years in prison. A 52-year-old city inspector, who was responsible for checking the building, committed suicide a week after the collapse. The jury determined that the Salvation Army ignored warnings of an imminent danger and that Basciano hired an unskilled and unlicensed contractor for the job who was recommended by Marinakos.
Plekan was stuck under the debris for a total of 13 hours. After finally being freed, the woman was rushed to the hospital, where surgeons removed her legs and lower torso in a series of operations. Plekan also had kidney and lung issues due to breathing in toxins from the debris while she was trapped. She recently lost her ability to speak due to throat damage from months on a respirator. In total, at the time of the trial, Plekan had already undergone thirty surgeries.
The arbitrator in the case, Jerry P. Roscoe, who was responsible for dividing the funds among all injured victims and their families, decided to award the largest piece of the $227 million personal injury settlement to Plekan. She received $95.6 million.
While the damage cannot be undone, Plekan will require constant care for the rest of her life and the funds will help alleviate some of the associated costs, which her attorney, Andrew Stern, estimated would be approximately $50 million over the course of the woman’s life. Stern hopes the payout will also help his client achieve her ultimate goal of moving from a nursing home to a more comfortable living arrangement, residing with her children overseas. Since she left the hospital, Plekan has been living in a West Philadelphia nursing home where she is often visited by her two children, who fly in from Ukraine, along with a translator who aids in their communication.
“She’s thrilled about this,” said Stern. “It’s going to help her get out of her current location and into a place where everybody … can be.” He added, “We’re just so happy for her in this regard. It has been a long road.”
Robert J. Mongeluzzi, who represented nine of the plaintiffs in the case said each of his clients received more than $1 million and the overall award totaled more than $60 million. The $227 million settlement is the largest personal injury settlement in Pennsylvania history.