Settlement reached in building collapse lawsuits

Joe Ahlquist/The Argus Leader via AP: In this Dec. 2, 2016, file photo, emergency personnel rescue a woman from the rubble after the Copper Lounge building collapsed in downtown Sioux Falls. In August 2019, the developer and construction company involved in the fatal collapse of the building agreed to a settlement of more than $4 million. The agreement would end most of the litigation resulting from the collapse of the former Copper Lounge building.

SIOUX FALLS (AP) – Insurers for the developer and construction company involved in the fatal collapse of a building in downtown Sioux Falls in 2016 will pay more than $4 million to settle lawsuits filed in the aftermath.

An agreement reached in U.S. Bankruptcy Court and approved by a judge this week ends most of the litigation resulting from the collapse of the former Copper Lounge building. The Dec. 2, 2016, collapse killed Ethan McMahon, an employee of Hultgren Construction, and left upstairs resident Emily Fodness trapped in the rubble for hours.

The agreement ends lawsuits brought against Hultgren and Legacy Developments by the McMahon and Fodness families, as well as other parties, the Argus Leader reported.

“No amount of money will bring Ethan back, but this is another step in the grieving process for his family,” said McMahon family attorney Vince Roche. “With the bankruptcy proceedings behind us, we can now focus on pursuing our claims against Rise Structural Associates for its part in this tragedy.”

Rise Structural Associates was the structural engineer on the project and has denied it was responsible for the collapse.

The insurance company for Hultgren Construction, which declared bankruptcy, will pay $2 million. An additional $1.15 million will come from property insurance and $1 million will be paid by Legacy Developments’ insurance company.

Under the terms of the agreement, several parties will split just under $630,000. The McMahon and Fodness families will split the remaining amount, about $3.4 million.

The Copper Lounge was being renovated and collapsed when a load-bearing wall was removed by Hultgren Construction, which was owned by Legacy Developments executives.

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