Jury awards over $100 million to victims of Seattle crane collapse

A jury on Monday awarded more than $100 million to some of the victims of a tower crane collapse that killed four in Seattle in 2019

SEATTLE — A jury on Monday awarded more than $100 million to some of the victims of a tower crane collapse that killed four people in Seattle in 2019.

Workers were dismantling the 300ft crane in strong gusts of wind when it fell off the roof of a Google building under construction in the South Lake Union neighborhood.

Two ironworkers died. The crane crushed cars below, killing Sarah Pantip Wong, a 19-year-old student at Seattle Pacific University, and Alan Justad, a 71-year-old former city employee.

Monday’s jury verdict involved cases brought by the families of Wong and Justad, as well as three others who were injured or whose vehicles were struck by the crane or debris – including Wong’s friend, Brittany Cadelena, who was with her in an Uber on the way to a mall, and Uber driver Ali Edriss.

“When your work affects the public, your job is to protect the public,” David Beninger, attorney for Justad’s family, said in a press release. “Hopefully this will also bring some closure to the families and individuals affected by this preventable collapse.”

The families of the deceased ironworkers, Travis Corbet, 33, and Andrew Yoder, 31, filed separate lawsuits.

Investigators found that some of the companies involved took shortcuts by failing to review crane dismantling instructions and prematurely removing large pins securing sections of the crane mast, a procedure commonly used in the industry to win time.

The jury said three companies – Omega Morgan, Northwest Tower Crane Service and Morrow Equipment Co. – caused $150 million in damages. However, Morrow – awarded 25% of the blame by the jury – was not involved in the trial and did not have to pay following the verdict; Lawyers for the victims said separate claims were pending against that company.

Northwest Tower Crane, which provided the ironworker crew, and Omega Morgan, which provided a large mobile crane used to dismantle the tower crane, were held liable for 75% of the damage. The companies did not immediately respond to messages sent after business hours on Monday.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys credited Northwest Tower Crane and Morrow with acknowledging some responsibility and changing practices in response to the tragedy. Omega Morgan has always denied it was to blame, which forced the case to go to trial rather than settle, they said.

“You had Northwest Tower Crane pulling too many pins too fast, creating an opportunity for disaster,” said Todd Gardner, an attorney for Wong’s family. “You had Omega Morgan decide they were going to keep working despite the winds. … If one of them had done his job, this would not have happened.

Wong’s family is entitled to $54 million, Justad to $39 million under the verdict. Cadelena and Edriss will each receive $9 million.

ABC News

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