According to WGNONews based in Metairie, Louisiana, 10 people who suffered a variety of injuries when the Hard Rock Hotel collapsed nearly 3 months ago have filed a civil lawsuit against developers, engineers, and architects connected to the disaster.
The lawsuit, filed on October 17 in Orleans Parish Civil District Court, seeks unspecified damages relating to hospital bills, litigation costs, and punitive damages.
Steve Herman of Herman Herman & Katz and Rene Rocha of Morgan & Morgan, the two firms that are representing the victims of the collapse, said in a statement that the goal is to prevent this type of disaster from happening again.
“The primary goal is to get to the bottom of exactly what happened, and make sure that nothing like this ever happens again,” the joint statement reads.
The 10 people who were injured suffered neck, back, eye, shoulder, head, and respiratory injuries due to the falling debris, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit lists 1031 Canal Development, L.L.C., Kailas, Companies L.L.C., Harry Baker Smith Architects II P.L.L.C., Heaslip Engineering L.L.C., and Citadel Builders L.L.C. as defendants.
“This major building collapse would not have occurred, but for the negligence and failures of the defendants,” the lawsuit reads.
A string of delays, including one sparked by the conviction of project spokesperson and developer Praveen Kailas for conspiracy to commit theft of government funds, severely hampered the project, according to the lawsuit.
“The design, planning, and construction of the structure at 1031 Canal was inadequate, likely to cause harm, and did cause harm to plaintiffs and others,” the lawsuit reads. “Defendants failed to design the structure in a manner that could bear the loads the structure was intended to hold. Further, defendants failed to use equipment and materials necessary to bear such loads.”
WHAT THE LAWSUIT ALLEGES
Pile load tests to determine if the location where the Hard Rock Hotel was intended to be built could support a load of 125 tons were never delivered, according to the lawsuit.
Instead, developers submitted the results of pile load tests from a different site at a different location, and the submitted tests were only for a load of 50 tons.
In addition, an insufficient number of horizontal beams, fill beams, and pole jacks were used, and the reshoring efforts were inadequate to support the building’s 30-by-30-foot concrete spans.
Due to the project running behind schedule, the concrete that was poured was not allowed to cure for an adequate amount of time, according to the lawsuit.
Despite warnings days before the collapse from workers on the site, project managers are accused of pressing ahead with the construction.
In the aftermath of what occurred, speculation swirled. Why did this happen? What went wrong? To learn more about the testing of concrete, the editor of MCS turned to Scott Grumski, vice president of platform development for Forney LP (maker of ForneyVault®) and an expert in cementitious material tests and strength. He agreed to share his thoughts. Below is the Q&A.
Thoughts about the hotel collapse?
First and foremost, this was an extremely tragic event, and our thoughts and condolences go out to all those affected. The unfortunate thing about our industry is that sometimes it takes events like this one to bring about necessary change. In this case, it’s clear what was needed was greater transparency and insight into the testing process. All parties would have benefitted from test results that could be easily disseminated and verified, meaning everyone would know the tests were done, and done properly. They would know that the pile load tests were from the correct location. They would know that recently poured concrete was tested, and those tests showed that it had achieved adequate strength for form removal. I don’t know that having these particular test results available would have prevented the collapse, but the lawsuit suggests that these tests are at least in question. And questions like this are part of the reason ForneyVault was created.
What is ForneyVault?
ForneyVault is an integrated construction materials testing (CMT) platform. It helps third-party labs, materials manufacturers, and engineering firms keep errors and variance out of the CMT process. The goal is to allow data to flow seamlessly, uncorrupted by human error. Doing so increases accuracy, compliance, and transparency for materials tests, and helps labs of all types drive positive outcomes. It achieves this by automating the testing process, which reduces the time and effort necessary to perform the tests and report the results.
How does it work?
In simple terms, ForneyVault eliminates the pencil and clipboard commonly used in testing labs. In doing so, it reduces transcription errors, typos, illegible writing, misidentified specimens, etc. It also provides a permanent record of the testing from sample creation through reporting of results. Because it interfaces with our testing machines, it can provide the machine with the information it needs to properly run the test for a specific specimen, and also provide proof that the specimen was tested properly.
What does a normal testing process look like?
For most (if not all) concrete projects, there is a specification that defines when and how the concrete should be sampled and tested. Typically, the specification says that for every so many cubic yards of concrete poured, a sample should be collected and tested. When a sample of concrete is collected, some tests are performed immediately. The rest of that concrete is poured into molds to be cured and tested later. The design strength of the concrete is typically a 28-day strength, so some of the cast specimens will be tested 28 days later to verify that the design strength of the concrete has been met. However, other specimens could be tested at different intervals to provide early strength values at 3, 7, or 14 days; or at any other time that the strength of the concrete is needed—like prior to form removal.
Does it add to the project timeline?
Since testing of the concrete is part of the specification for the project, this time is already allocated. The delay for collecting a sample is minimal—typically, while concrete is being poured down the chute of a mixer truck, the chute is diverted for a few seconds to fill a wheelbarrow, and then the chute is returned to continue the pour. The sample data collection is performed from the wheelbarrow of diverted concrete, so the rest of the project continues without delay.
If a problem is identified through testing, then there could be delays. However, these delays are not caused by the testing—the testing has revealed an issue caused by something else, and the delay is caused by resolution of the issue. The delays with this project appeared to be unrelated to testing of the construction materials.
Any other thoughts you’d like to share?
With respect to the building collapse, there are many questions that still need to be answered. Were tests done? Were they the right tests? Were they done at the right times? If there was a more transparent process, we wouldn’t be asking those questions. The answers would be obvious because the stakeholders would be able to see them. So, if a problem arose, they could focus on resolving it instead of wondering whether or not the data is even correct.
NOTE: Scott Grumski has been with Forney LP for 8 years, having been chief engineer and then promoted in 2019 to vice president, platform development.
Forney LP is a material testing equipment innovator and distributor located in Zelienople, Pennsylvania. Forney is the maker of ForneyVault, an automated materials testing platform. Forney’s focus is on material testing equipment with cementitious materials like cement, mortar, grout and concrete for the construction industry. For more, visit www.forneyonline.com or www.forneyvault.com.