2 workers sue over parking garage collapse

Source: http://www.mysanantonio.com, August 26, 2011
By: Richard A. Marini

Project manager, not hospital or county, targeted.

The first lawsuit stemming from the collapse of an unfinished parking garage in February has been filed by two workers injured in the incident.

According to the suit, which names project manager Broaddus + Muñoz as the sole defendant, Joaquin Lopez, 42, and Robert Santos, 40, suffered “serious and permanent injuries to their body” as well as “anxiety, nightmares, flashbacks and depression.”

“This accident has devastated their careers, their families and their health,” said Fidel Rodriguez, the attorney representing the workers.

The multistory North Prow section of the garage was under construction the morning of Feb. 14 when it collapsed. No one was killed in the incident, but Santos and Lopez reportedly were injured, Santos more seriously. He was released from the Reeves Rehabilitation Center at University Hospital in March.

A six-month investigation by Houston-based structural and engineering firm Walter P. Moore and Associates concluded the garage collapsed because workers failed to apply grout between sections of vertical columns supporting the structure.

The suit claims Broaddus + Muñoz failed to properly supervise the project, to make reasonable inspections of the garage, to properly phase the work being performed and to warn the plaintiffs about the dangerous condition created by the lack of grout between column sections.

It asks for unspecified damages.

In a statement released late Friday afternoon, Scott A. Broaddus, vice president-chief financial officer for Broaddus & Associates said, in part: “Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with Mr. Lopez and Mr. Santos. … Under the express terms of its contract with the Bexar County Hospital District, Broaddus + Muñoz did not have any direct control over the construction of the project. In addition, Broaddus + Muñoz had no duty to inspect or review construction operations of others for compliance with safety. Broaddus + Muñoz is not at fault for the injuries suffered by Mr. Lopez and Mr. Santos. We have advised counsel (Rodriguez) of our position and … have requested that he immediately dismiss this groundless litigation against Broaddus + Muñoz.”

According to a document provided by Rodriguez, Santos suffered intracranial bleeding, fractured ribs, a lacerated kidney and a broken leg, among other injuries.

He also had multiple strokes and resuscitations and was in a medically induced coma for three weeks following the collapse.

Lopez’s injuries included fractures of the orbital bone, the spine, the right leg and the right hand. Rodriguez, who did not make his clients available for an interview, said Lopez underwent surgery Friday to correct a deviated septum and a torn anterior cruciate ligament, both suffered in the collapse.

Rodriguez said he expects the case will not come to trial until late summer or early fall 2012 at the earliest. But, he added, “we will be available to talk about a favorable and equitable settlement for both the families.”

He noted that, contrary to TV reports, the lawsuit does not name University Hospital or Bexar County as defendants.

“We felt the fault lies with the people who were involved in the surveying, planning and actual construction of the parking garage,” he explained. “And that’s Broaddus + Muñoz.”

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