Common Pleas Court Judge Mark I. Bernstein has denied a bid by defense attorneys to limit pretrial disclosure of depositions, documents, and other discovery material in civil cases stemming from the Center City building collapse last June.
The ruling was disclosed late Thursday with a posting on the court system's website. The posting did not include an opinion explaining the decision, just a notation that the defendants' request for a protective order, barring pretrial disclosure or discussion of discovery material, had been denied.
Six people died and 14 were injured June 5 when a four-story brick wall, left unsupported in a demolition project, fell onto a Salvation Army thrift shop next door. The victims and their families have sued multiple defendants, including real estate investor Richard Basciano, building owner STB Properties, the Salvation Army, and demolition contractor Griffin Campbell.
In their request last month, the defendants' attorneys complained that discovery material had already been provided to TV and newspaper reporters, leading to negative publicity that could undermine their clients' rights to a fair trial.
Plaintiff lawyers countered that the public has an interest in full disclosure of the facts surrounding the building collapse and jury-selection procedures would ensure a fair trial.
"The best way to prevent future catastrophes like this one is for the public and public officials to fully understand what happened and take steps to make sure that it never happens again," said Robert Mongeluzzi, an attorney representing eight of the collapse victims or their families.
- Bob Warner