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A Philadelphia jury awarded a local man $5.75 million in compensatory and punitive damages after he claimed that his historic building on Spring Garden Street collapsed from construction on the adjacent lot. In Harvey v. Duling Properties, Robert Harvey was awarded $4 million in compensatory damages on Sept. 6 and was then awarded $1.75 million in punitive damages later in the month by the same jury. JPC Group was hired as the underpinning contractor for the work being done on 1904-1908 Spring Garden St., next to Harvey’s residence at 1910 Spring Garden St. JPC was hired to ensure Harvey’s house was properly secured as other contractors worked next door, according to Harvey’s attorney, Ronald L. Williams of Fox Rothschild. JPC was the only defendant that did not settle, as well as the one with the deepest pockets with $20 million in excess insurance, according to court documents. The company was found 35 percent negligent for the building collapse, so Harvey will only receive $1.4 million of the $4 million reward. He will receive 100 percent of the $1.75 million in punitive damages because JPC was the only defendant in question at that phase of the trial. Williams said Harvey settled for undisclosed amounts with the other defendants after the jury was selected Aug. 28. The other defendants were Duling Properties, Orion General Contractors, Bevan Lawson, JKT Contractors and Development Co., and Hannah & Sons Construction Co. The jury found Orion and JKT Contractors negligent at 30 percent and 35 percent, respectively, according to the verdict sheet. Harvey’s original demand was for more than $10 million. Williams said he has already filed for delay damages, which are in the six-figure range. Harvey has been living in an apartment since the building collapsed in the summer of 2005. He estimated that it would take a little more than $3 million to rebuild that building and was looking for another $2.5 million in trespass damages, according to court documents. Damages for lost documents from his home business, lost contents, credit card charges and lost rent were among some of the other claims. Williams said there were no settlement talks and there was no high-low agreement. He said JPC was liable for punitive damages because of the company’s reckless behavior on Harvey’s property, including using it as a dumpsite in the two years since the collapse, according to court papers. Williams said in court documents the defendants never offered to pay the six-figure cost for complete demolition, as required by the city. JPC argued during trial that it was also a plaintiff in the case and was not on site at the time of the building collapse, according to court documents. It argued that it was doing its job according to the instructions from the supervising contractor, Orion, and the engineer Bevan Lawson. The company said it was never on the property after the collapse, which would mean a trespass claim could not succeed. Harvey lived in and worked from the building and had seven other tenants, including one doctor’s office. Williams said those tenants have filed their own suit, which is yet to be resolved. Williams said Harvey’s home was built in the 1880s and had previously served as a Civil War hospital and home to a former Philadelphia mayor. The contractors in the case were looking to build a condominium project next to Harvey’s property. According to court documents, the project was originally rejected by the city’s Historic Commission for not being in line with the historic appearance of the 1910 address. Once the eight jurors came back with a verdict in Harvey after almost two days of deliberations on the compensatory damages, Williams filed his motion to present evidence of punitive damages. He said he was instructed by the judge to do so at that point. Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Joseph I. Papalini granted the motion on Sept. 6 and the two sides tried that portion of the case Sept. 11 and 12. The jury deliberated for about three days and came back with the punitive damages award. Williams said the same juror in both phases voted against Harvey. James R. Rohlfing of Francis R. Gartner & Associates represented JPC through its insurance carrier and could not comment on the case. Edward Seglias of Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman was brought in on behalf of JPC to handle the argument against allowing a punitive damages phase. Seglias said he believes Harvey’s motion to amend to allow for a punitive damages phase was untimely. “We intend to file post-trial motions on those grounds and then appeal if necessary,” he said. Seglias said there are errors of law in allowing the motion to amend after a jury verdict. Williams said the judge instructed him to file the motion after a reward for compensatory damages was received. He said he pled the motion prior to trial to the motions judge and it was dismissed without prejudice. Williams said he filed the motion again during the motions in limine stage and Papalini told him to wait. Fox Rothschild attorneys Samuel W. Cortes and Stephanie Nolan Deviney also worked on the case.

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