$30M lawsuit filed after Elliot Lake mall collapse
Published Friday, July 6, 2012 10:09AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, July 6, 2012 8:15PM EDT
The lawyer behind a class-action lawsuit filed in the wake of a mall collapse in Elliot Lake, Ont. said he saw problems with the Algo Centre Mall long before the roof caved in, killing two women.
Douglas Elliott, a Toronto-based lawyer and former Elliot Lake resident, is heading up the $30 million class-action suit that was filed Friday on behalf of the local residents and business owners affected by the collapse.
“When I saw the design in the first place I said, ‘one person who will never park on that roof is me because someday someone is going to go through it,’” Elliott said in an interview with CTV Northern Ontario’s Ben Mercer. “I thought it would be a snow plow frankly, I didn’t think it would just fall by itself. But it’s been a disaster waiting to happen for a long time.”
Mall owner Eastwood Mall Inc., the City of Elliot Lake and the provincial government are all named in the lawsuit.
The lead plaintiffs in the case are Elaine and Jack Quinte, owners of Hungry Jack’s restaurant in the mall.
Jack Quinte said the mall had been in a poor state of repair for years and that his wife had reported at least one incident involving a chunk of concrete crashing through the ceiling into the restaurant. He said her concerns were ignored.
"We know it will be stressful to represent the victims of the collapse but we have agreed to take it on because we believe that the people who have suffered are entitled to fair compensation for what has happened," he said.
"There were many warnings that the roof was in a bad state of repair and something should have been done to prevent this terrible situation, which has been devastating to our family and to many others."
In a statement, Elaine Quinte said those who witnessed the collapse first-hand are suffering lasting psychological trauma.
"It was a horrifying experience and I still suffer loss of sleep and I get overcome with emotion whenever I think of the events of the day."
None of the allegations in the lawsuit have been proven in court.
Earlier this week, the Ontario Provincial Police launched a criminal investigation into the roof collapse that killed two women and injured 22 others.
Engineers have been trying to determine whether the entire mall must be demolished or if it can be salvaged following the accident that killed Doloris Perizzolo, 74, and Lucie Aylwin, 37.
However, many residents, including Elliot Lake’s Mayor Rick Hamilton, say that if the mall simply undergoes a repair they wouldn’t feel comfortable re-enteringthe building.
“What I can say on behalf of my family is we’re traumatized by this as well and we would have some very difficult opportunities to re-enter the building such as the way it is,” Hamilton said.
The mayor said the city hasn’t been given a time frame by the OPP as to when the roof-collapse investigation will be complete.
“As long as that’s going on we can’t get any commitment from anybody with respect to the demolition of the building,” he said.
Hamilton added that the June 23 tragedy had a devastating financial impact on the local economy.
“We lost 300 jobs. The impact financially is enormous. We need to start laying some plans to rebuild.”
Todd Stencill of the Elliot Lake chamber of commerce said the mall was home to at least 10 per cent of the city's retail space, along with a library, a hotel and grocery stores.
Stencill estimated the collapse wiped out six per cent of the wages in the community of 11,000.
“Our top priority is to get the economy going again,” he said.
With a report from CTV Northern Ontario’s Ben Mercer and files from The Canadian Press