Lawyers representing a woman who suffered severe brain damage after she was struck by falling debris from a Noble Square building earlier this month have said they intend to take legal action against the owners of the building, as well as the company that erected scaffolding around the building in the weeks leading up to the horrific incident.
Annie Shea Wheeler, 22, was driving home near the intersection of Milwaukee and Ashland on April 6 when chunks of concrete fell from the facade of a building in the area.
She was hit in the head and was hospitalized with serious injuries, which required brain surgery.
Wheeler spoke for the first time about the incident at a press conference on Monday.
“What I do know is this: my injury that day completely uprooted my life and changed the trajectory of my life,” she said. “It hurts far beyond the already intense physical pain, because my whole world is changing as well.”
Lawyers allege the collapse was “completely preventable” and accuse the owners of the building of “having no regard for the health and well-being of members of the community”.
Lawyer Bruno Marasso indicates that his client is filing a complaint against the owner of the building, as well as against the scaffolding companies who have erected protective barriers around the building.
The facade of the building was not repaired prior to the April 6 incident, and attorneys allege that the scaffolding that was erected around the building failed to protect Wheeler from debris.
“The next thing I remember is opening my eyes on the floor and seeing my roommate, who was across the street,” she said.
Wheeler says she was close to graduating from college and planning to pursue a master’s degree, but those plans are now on hold.
“I’m being forced to leave my partner and give up the best life situation I’ve ever been in,” she said. “And a community and a family here that supports me.”
Marasso says their investigation found that the owners of the building had been asked by the city in March to perform security repairs on the building.
In a response to NBC 5, the city’s Buildings Department confirmed it ordered the repairs after receiving an anonymous referral via 311.
Officials say they ordered the building’s owners to build a sturdy canopy around the building, hire a structural engineer to assess the facade and carry out emergency repairs.
After part of the facade collapsed, the city filed an emergency motion to appoint a receiver for the building, and the facade was stabilized.
Another hearing in that case is scheduled for Tuesday.
NBC 5 is awaiting comments from building owners, and one of the scaffolding companies named in the lawsuit has referred questions to their attorneys due to the ongoing litigation.