Attorneys reached a last-minute settlement Friday morning in a civil lawsuit involving a downtown Laramie building that partially collapsed in 2015.
The case, which was set to go to trial Monday, stemmed from the June 6-7, 2015, collapse of the south wall of the Hart’s Alley building. Located at 404 S. Second St., the lot is adjacent to the former site of a Laramie Vision Clinic building that burned down in 2014.
Building owners Sean and Dolores Hart filed a complaint in December accusing three Wyoming companies — Reiman Corp., Gertsch-Baker Engineering & Design, Incorporated, and Inberg Surveying Company, Inc. — of negligence.
The companies were retained by 20/20 Ventures, the owner of the Laramie Vision Clinic building, for services related to the creation of a new structure at the former clinic building site.
In their complaint, the Harts claimed Reiman caused their building’s south wall to fail by excavating “too far down,” Gertsch-Baker was negligent in its designs and Inberg did not take adequate steps to ensure a safe excavation.
The Harts requested compensation for damages, including demolishment, debris removal and replacement and reconstruction costs, as well as loss of business income and loss of potential sale and use of the property.
Colin Simpson, an attorney representing the Harts, said he could not disclose the amount of money involved in Friday’s settlement.
“I would expect that some things are going to start happening at the lot relatively soon as far as demolition of the building and removal,” he said, adding he expected this work to begin within 30 days once the necessary paperwork is complete.
Attorneys representing the three Wyoming companies could not be reached by deadline Friday.
Just over a year after the Laramie Vision Clinic burned down next door, the Hart’s Alley building at 404 S. Second St. partially collapsed at approximately 6 a.m. on Sunday.
There were no injuries in the collapse, but Sean Hart, the owner of Hart’s Alley, claims the company rebuilding the burned down building, Reiman Corp., is to blame for the collapse, as evidenced by large cracks in the shared wall between the construction site and Hart’s Alley he noticed last week.
“I don’t think it was a little birdie that flew through the wall,” Hart said. “It is apparent to me that the company had a backhoe or some other heavy machinery digging into the foundation. The rear door could no longer be opened as the rear wall had shifted and jammed it shut.”
Hart had just completed renovating his building last week from damages received during the fire at the Laramie Vision Clinic and had started showing the building to potential lessees.
“This past week, a new roof was put in, and I had a few people interested in signing a lease,” Hart said.
Trey Sherwood, with the Laramie Main Street Alliance, said there will likely be no long-term business effects downtown, but there will be short-term effects due to the closure of multiple business on the block near Hart’s Alley.
“The businesses on the block cannot be opened until a structural engineer can take a look at the buildings,” Sherwood said.
As of 5 p.m. Monday, there are three businesses entirely closed: Undercover Bed and Spa, Prairie Rose and Hero Depot, according to a press release from the Laramie Main Street Alliance. Five other businesses on Second Street are only accessible from either a side or a back door: Dodds Shoe Co, Sears, The Library, Elite Medical and SRI.
The cause of the collapse has not been determined yet, Sherwood said; however, he added a few possibilities are being looked into.
“It is too early to tell if the fire last year was related at all,” Sherwood said. “It could have also been reverberation from the train tracks, or possibly rain. Currently trains going through town must slow down as a precaution until an inspection can be completed.”
Rather than looking at it alone, Hart said the city engineering department should inspect the building with him so he can accurately present the damages.
“I asked them to come meet me, and they said they came to look at it without me, and saw the building permit and said there was no problem,” Hart said. “This could have possibly been prevented if only the city engineering department had taken the time to look at the problem and had worked with me to see just how extensive the wall was being damaged.”
David Derragon, Laramie assistant city manager, said the city is in an information gathering stage, and has yet to determine the cause of the collapse.
“The fire marshall and the building official with community development are gathering information to determine a course of action,” Derragon said.
Reiman Corp. declined to comment on the collapse until the investigation is completed.