SEATTLE – A jury awarded more than $100 million Monday to some of the victims of a tower crane collapse that killed four people in Seattle in 2019.
Workers were disassembling the 300-foot crane in strong wind gusts when it fell from the roof of a Google building under construction in the South Lake Union neighborhood.
Two ironworkers fell to their deaths. The crane crushed cars below, killing Sarah Pantip Wong, a 19-year-old Seattle Pacific University student, and Alan Justad, a 71-year-old former city worker.
The jury's verdict on Monday concerned cases brought by the families of Wong and Justad, as well as three others who were injured or had their vehicles struck by the crane or debris — including Wong's friend Brittany Cadelena, who was with her in an Uber on the way to a shopping mall, and the Uber’s driver, Ali Edriss.
“When your work affects the public, your job is to protect the public,” David Beninger, an attorney for Justad’s family, said in a news release. ”Hopefully this will also bring some closure for the families and individuals hurt by this preventable collapse.”
The families of the ironworkers who died, Travis Corbet, 33, and Andrew Yoder, 31, have filed separate lawsuits.
Investigators found that some of the companies involved had cut corners by failing to review the crane’s disassembly instructions and prematurely removed large pins securing sections of the crane’s mast, a procedure that was commonly done in the industry to save time.
The jury said three companies — Omega Morgan, Northwest Tower Crane Service and Morrow Equipment Co. — had caused $150 million in damages. However, Morrow — assigned 25% of the blame by the jury — was not involved in the trial and does not have to pay as a result of the verdict; lawyers for the victims said separate claims are being pursued against that company.
Northwest Tower Crane, which supplied the crew of iron workers, and Omega Morgan which supplied a large mobile crane used to disassemble the tower crane, were held responsible for 75 percent of the damages. The companies did not immediately respond to messages sent after business hours Monday.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs credited Northwest Tower Crane and Morrow for acknowledging some responsibility and changing practices in response to the tragedy. Omega Morgan consistently 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 deciding they were going to continue to work despite the winds. ... Had either of them done their job, this wouldn't have happened.”
Wong’s family is entitled to $54 million, Justad’s to $39 million under the verdict. Cadelena and Edriss will each receive $9 million.