Nearly two years after a portion of a downtown Laramie building collapsed, a lawsuit between the building owners and three Wyoming companies they claim acted negligently is set to go to trial Monday.
The south wall of the Hart’s Alley building, located at 404 S. Second St., collapsed June 6-7, 2015. The building’s lot is adjacent to the former location of the Laramie Vision Clinic building that burnt down in May 2014.
Six months after the partial collapse, building owners Sean and Dolores Hart filed a complaint in District Court against Reiman Corp., Gertsch-Baker Engineering & Design, Incorporated, and Inberg Surveying Company, Inc. The three Wyoming companies were retained, respectively, by Laramie Vision Clinic building owner 20/20 Ventures as the general contractor/construction manager, design professional and project architect, and geotechnical engineer for a new structure at the site of the former clinic building.
The complaint accuses the companies of negligence, claiming Reiman caused the south wall to fail by excavating “too far down,” Gertsch-Baker was negligent in its designs and Inberg did not take proper steps to ensure a safe excavation.
The Harts are requesting compensation for damages, including demolition costs for the collapsed building, debris removal and replacement and reconstruction of the building, along with “consequential damages” such as loss of business income.
Five days have been allocated for the trial, which was originally scheduled for December but reset per an order from former District Court Judge Jeffrey Donnell.
In April, District Court Judge Tori Kricken rejected the Harts’ argument that testimony from a potential witness expected to speak about the building’s market value should not be admitted at trial.
In a memorandum of law filed in March, an attorney for the Harts argued a report and testimony from the witness, a real estate broker for Mountain Valley Properties, would be insufficient to support the concept of a “before-and-after” value for the property, claiming the report in question was not an appraisal and only provided a sole value based on a broker’s market analysis.
Attorneys representing the three companies responded that the reduction in the Hart building’s value could be “no greater than $425,000,” making that figure the maximum damage that could be awarded to the owners, and planned to argue during trial the “cost of repairs” put forward by the plaintiffs was “unreasonable and disproportionate.”
Kricken’s order, submitted April 12, notes real estate brokers have been allowed to provide expert opinions about property valuation when appropriate, further stating the plaintiffs did not cite “cogent authority” requiring property valuations to be based solely on a certified appraisal.