Insurance Coverage Lesson from the Harrisburg Wall Collapse
On May 5, 2016, a large wall collapsed on the property of McFarland, LP, near Cameron Street and Mulberry Street in downtown Harrisburg. (source)
The owner of the property was a responsible business entity. When McFarland purchased the property several years prior, it purchased insurance coverage in excess of $60 million for property damage and liability coverage.
But in the days and weeks following the collapse, which would eventually cost more than $7 million in damages, McFarland was told by all of its insurance carriers that there was no coverage for McFarland‘s damages nor the legal fees and damages to defend against the claims from the neighboring property owners.
Facing condemnation of the property by the City and lawsuits from neighboring property owners, McFarland contacted Smigel, Anderson and Sacks to represent its interests.
Master trial attorney Michael R. Kelley of Smigel spent more than five years tackling all of the legal obstacles.
He brought four separate lawsuits against all the insurance companies and eventually acquired enough assets from those companies to rebuild the wall, parking structure, and adjacent apartment complex that had been condemned. Kelley was also able to force the insurance companies to provide a defense in the lawsuits brought by the neighboring property owners and pay for the damages sustained by those neighboring property owners.
Finally, Kelley and his team at Smigel were able to bring a lawsuit against several parties whom Kelley believed were responsible for the collapse. That case has now successfully concluded.
When asked what the number one lesson for business owners should be from the Harrisburg wall collapse, Attorney Kelley responded: “Never assume that just because an insurance company denies coverage that their denial of coverage is correct. Always contact an experienced insurance coverage lawyer for an opinion.”