A lawyer for the Salvation Army on Wednesday attacked the credibility of a retail management expert who testified that charity executives failed in their duty to protect employees and shoppers killed in the 2013 Center City building collapse.
Lawyer John J. Snyder confronted expert Robert Bartlett with copies of emails sent and received between May 10 and 15, 2013, by Salvation Army officials in West Nyack, N.Y., and officials of STB Investments Corp. STB is the New York City owner of the vacant four-story building that was being demolished next to the charity's thrift store in the 2100 block of Market Street.
On June 5, 2013, an unbraced three- to four-story brick wall remaining from STB's Hoagie City building toppled and crushed the thrift store, killing six people and injuring 13. One of the injured died 23 days later.
Snyder argued that the emails showed that Salvation Army officials promptly responded to STB property manager Thomas Simmonds and were actively moving to ensure the safety of the thrift store, workers, and customers.
Bartlett, of San Rafael, Calif., an independent retail industry management consultant who also testifies as an expert in business litigation, refused to modify his opinion.
Bartlett told the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury in the trial of lawsuits filed in the collapse that the conduct of Salvation Army officials was a "major management failure."
Citing the email correspondence on May 10 that continued several hours after a conference call between representatives of the Salvation Army and STB, Snyder told Bartlett: "That is not a failure in communications in the Salvation Army's chain of command."
"You're talking about the speed of responding to emails," Bartlett replied. "I'm talking about management of the outcome.
"What actually happened here was that [Salvation Army officials] hired an architect but he was never actually sent to the store to investigate what really was happening on the ground," Bartlett said.
The main failure of charity managers, Bartlett said, was in keeping the store open during the final phase of the demolition next door and never telling managers, employees, or customers at the store about the danger looming above.
"You can't protect people without any reliable information about what is going on on the ground," Bartlett said.
Snyder is to continue questioning Bartlett when the trial resumes Thursday. Snyder has argued that Bartlett - who based his opinions on transcripts of earlier testimony in court and in pretrial depositions - is not credible as a witness criticizing the performance of Salvation Army officials.
In addition to the Salvation Army, those being sued include New York real estate speculator Richard Basciano and his STB company; Plato A. Marinakos Jr., the Center City architect whom Basciano and STB hired to monitor demolition; demolition contractor Griffin Campbell; and Sean Benschop, an excavator operator hired by Campbell to help knock down the remains of the Hoagie City building.