It’s been nearly a year since the Hard Rock Hotel partially collapsed in New Orleans, killing three construction workers and injuring 18 others, and still the crumbling building looms over the historic French Quarter and bustling Central Business District. Now the city has filed a lawsuit against the property developers seeking to recoup millions of dollars in cleanup and related costs.
The Hard Rock hotel collapsed on Oct. 12, 2019, when the top floors of the building caved in onto the lower floors, leaving the partially constructed building in shambles and posing a threat to nearby structures.
On Aug. 18, more than 10 months since the collapse, the last of the two bodies entombed in the ruins were removed, giving the property developers and the city the green light to demolish the building.
The city filed the lawsuit on Aug. 25 in Orleans Civil District Court. According to NOLA.com, the complaint “lays blame for the catastrophe squarely on Hard Rock owner Mohan Kailas and his partners” in addition to 1031 Canal, the developers of the property, and a number of engineers and contractors.
“Our city was harmed. Our people were killed. No amount of delay or denial or excuses can change that fact — and we will not allow those responsible to evade responsibility for the damages they have caused to our city,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a statement after the city filed the complaint.
New Orleans City Attorney Sunni LeBeouf said that while New Orleans preferred not to engage in litigation over the disaster, it had to file suit “because the property owners have failed to right the wrongs they have caused.”
Mayor Cantrell says the city “has not been compensated in any way for the harm it has suffered in response to the disaster,” which has included spending $12 million in taxpayer money responding to the collapse and taking measures to ensure the unstable building and tower cranes did not endanger people and property in the surrounding blocks.
Nearly a dozen of the building’s engineers and contractors have already been cited by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for safety violations that contributed to the deadly collapse. One of those companies, Heaslip Engineering LLC, was ordered to pay more than $154,000 for safety lapses that included failure to properly design beams and other load-bearing structures on the hotel’s upper floors.
The city also says that in addition to direct expenses dealing with the Hard Rock collapse and its aftermath, the disaster choked the city’s overall economy, forcing it to allocate public safety resources to monitor and clean up the site instead of using that money where it was normally needed.
Businesses near the collapsed building were also dealt a major financial blow. The restaurants, bars, shops, and other venues that remained open saw major declines in revenue, which in turn diminished sales tax revenue the city would have otherwise received, the city’s complaint contends.
Beasley Allen handles a variety of cases related to economic losses on behalf of city, state and municipal governments. If you need more information, contact Alison Hawthorne or Lance Gould, lawyers in our Consumer Fraud Section who handle similar cases for our firm.