A Ukrainian immigrant has been awarded $95.6 million in a personal injury settlement after a building in Philadelphia collapsed on her. The disaster, which occurred in 2013, injured 12 people and killed seven.
The woman's settlement was the largest piece in a $227 million award reached in February.
Mariya Plekan, 55, was shopping at the Salvation Army store in 2013 when the store was hit by debris from a neighboring building that collapsed during demolition. The woman underwent 30 operations to have her lower torso and legs removed. Plekan was stuck underneath the debris for 13 hours.
Plekan also suffered kidney and lung issues after breathing in toxic materials while she was trapped. She can no longer speak due to throat damage from a breathing tube.
Following the collapse, the Salvation Army said in a statement: "Our deepest sympathy remains with the victims and their families through this extremely difficult time. We pray for the healing of our community. The Salvation Army continues to serve those in need, with compassion, as we have for more than 137 years in Philadelphia."
Attorney Andrew Stern, the arbitrator responsible for dividing the personal injury settlement, said the funds will allow her to move out of a nursing home and to live with her children. Plekan will require constant medical care for the rest of her life.
Stern estimates Plekan's future medical costs to be $50 million.
"She's thrilled about this. It's going to help her get out of her current location and into a place where everybody … can be," said Stern.
Plekan has been living in a nursing home in West Philadelphia since the collapse. Her two children fly in from the Ukraine to visit her regularly, and a friend travels with them to act as a translator.
The trial was the second-largest civil trial in Pennsylvania's history. The $227 million total settlement is the largest ever for the state.
"While this tragedy took its toll on so many innocent victims, we are very pleased that the arbitrator recognized in his assessment that Mariya Plekan, the most catastrophically injured victim, should receive the highest award following this liability jury verdict," Stern said. "We take comfort that Ms. Plekan finally can obtain the appropriate skilled medical care she needs for the rest of her life, and that she has received just compensation for the gruesome injuries she sustained from this devastating tragedy."
A jury found three entities liable for the collapse: Richard Basciano, the Salvation Army and architect Plato A. Marinakos Jr.
The jury determined that the Salvation Army failed to ignore the warnings of a collapse at the demolition site. Basciano, the jury found, hired an unlicensed and unskilled contractor to complete the job. Marinakos, who was in charge of monitoring the demolition, recommended the contractor.
Griffin Campbell, the contractor, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to up to 30 years in prison for his role in the disaster.
Sean Benschop, excavator operator, was also sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.
The inspector who was in charge of checking the building committed suicide shortly after the disaster.