Was the city of Sioux Falls partially at fault for the deadly downtown building collapse three years ago that killed one person and injured another?
That’s the case before the South Dakota Supreme Court Tuesday where justices heard arguments in a lawsuit against the city.
In 2016, Hultgren Construction, LLC was in the process of remodeling the former Copper Lounge when the building collapsed, killing construction worker Ethan McMahon and trapping Emily Fodness for several hours.
A number of lawsuits were filed following the collapse, including one against the city by the Fodness family claiming negligence on the part of the city.
Dec 2, 2016. It’s a day many people won’t soon forget. The former Copper Lounge building collapsed into a pile of rubble.
Buried under the debris, a woman by the name of Emily Fodness.
“She survived a miraculous survival but has been left to live with physical injuries as well as suffering from PTSD, which left her to be placed on a 72 hour suicide watch just months after this tragic event,” Fodness attorney Dan Fritz said.
Fritz, who is representing the Fodness family in the lawsuit, argued in front of the State Supreme Court today that the city was negligent when it issued Hultrgren Construction, LLC a building permit without a set of building plans that would require removing a load-bearing wall.
“We are claiming the city knowingly violated its own ordinances, violated the law in issuing the permit in the first place,” Fritz said.
The attorney representing the city, James E. Moore argued the lower court was right to dismiss the lawsuit, because the city had no knowledge that issuing a permit would lead to the collapse.
“What the court has said is the purpose of the permit is not to make sure is not to place responsibility for ensuring compliance upon the city, the responsibility for the compliance is left squarely on the person responsible for construction,” James E. Moore said.
That he says was Hultgren Construction, LLC, not the city and says that’s why the lower court dismissed the lawsuit.
“What they established was the actual violation of the building code, not evidence of actual knowledge, actual knowledge, not constructive knowledge, but actual knowledge that the city knew that the building was likely to collapse if it issued a permit,” Moore said.
The justices will make a ruling at a later date. You can watch the entire hearing on KELOLAND Dot com.