Family Sues Companies Over 2016 Sioux Falls Building Collapse

The family of a man who died in a 2016 Sioux Falls, S.D., building collapse has filed two lawsuits alleging the developer and construction company were responsible for the tragedy.

Construction worker Ethan McMahon died Dec. 2, 2016, in the Cooper Lounge collapse. His brother, John F. McMahon, was also working at the site during the collapse and witnessed Ethan’s death.

John F. McMahon and their father, John J. McMahon, filed separate lawsuits alleging Hultgren Construction used a “trial-by-error mentality” while performing construction and demolition activities, the Argus Leader reported.

The lawsuits also name Legacy Developments & Consulting Co., project engineer Rise Structural Associates and three limited liability companies with ownership stakes in the project, Boomerang, CLP and Olympia. The McMahons’ attorney, Vince Roche, declined to comment.

The lawsuits allege all defendants were aware that a load-bearing wall was damaged because a family residing in an upstairs apartment warned them of a crack that formed during demolition.

“Hultgren, Legacy, CLP, Olympia and Boomerang knew or should have known the crack impaired the structural integrity of the load-bearing common wall, which created a significant, foreseeable risk the wall would give out and the entire structure would collapse,” the lawsuits states.

Hultgren didn’t immediately respond for comment. The company is under an ongoing criminal investigation, which opened in August.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also levied two dozen violations and $200,000 in fines against Hultgren Construction after an investigation into the collapse. They appealed, which is stalled while the criminal investigation is underway.

Legacy Development spokeswoman Stacy Jones said they’re reviewing the complaint.

Justin Christensen, president of Rise, said he was unaware of the lawsuits and that the company wasn’t involved in the demolition of the Copper Lounge.

A Sioux Falls councilwoman says the city should end its partnership in the $50 million mixed-use downtown development after the suit was filed.

The Argus Leader reports that Councilwoman Theresa Stehly requested fellow council members to pull $21 million in city funding for the mixed-use hotel and parking ramp project.

Councilman Rex Rolfing disagrees, saying the lawsuit against Legacy won’t negatively affect the project. He says it’s a waste of time to stop a project that will benefit the city’s downtown.

Mayor Mike Huether didn’t immediately respond to the newspaper’s request for comment.