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Damages sought in crane collapse suit 'definitely in the millions,' says Halifax lawyer

The building crane that collapsed on South Park Street in downtown Halifax during hurricane Dorian is seen from the nearby Trillium condominium building on Sunday morning, Sept. 8, 2019. - Ryan Taplin
The crane that collapsed on South Park Street and building in downtown Halifax during post-tropical storm Dorian is seen from the nearby Trillium condominium building on Sept. 8, 2019. - Ryan Taplin / The Chronicle Herald

The crane that collapsed in downtown Halifax more than a month ago has sparked a class action lawsuit.
Thornbloom Boutique Ltd. is the proposed representative in the suit filed Friday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court. The defendants are W.M. Fares Architects Inc., W.M. Fares & Associates -- the companies that were using the crane to build a condo project dubbed Brenton Place -- Lead Structural Formwork Ltd., the Moncton-based owner and operator of the crane, and The Manitowoc Company, Inc., the Wisconsin outfit that designed and built the crane. 
"For sure, this is definitely in the millions," Ray Wagner, the Halifax lawyer behind the proposed class action, said of the damages sought in the suit. 
Wagner said his firm has been speaking for weeks with individuals and businesses affected by the Sept. 7 crane collapse. 
"That was born out of the frustration that these businesses have experienced in terms of seeing no solution to the desperate economic situation that they find themselves in," he said.
The collapsed crane has hurt the bottom lines of businesses in the area bounded by South Park Street, Brenton Street, Spring Garden Road and Clyde Street, he said. 
Even when the crane is cleaned up, that pain could linger, Wagner said. "Traditional customers of these businesses move on to other establishments and don't return or take a long time before they do return." 
The crane collapsed during post-tropical storm Dorian. It was on Brenton Place, a condo project under construction, when it "collapsed onto the Olympus, a nearby residential condominium tower under construction," according to Wagner's statement of claim. 
It also caught the corner of The Trillium, a condo building built by developer Wadih Fares, on South Park. 
"Large construction cranes of the type that collapsed are intended to rotate on their tower, similar to a weather vane, with the swing brake off so that the crane will automatically turn to compensate for the wind direction," said Wagner's statement of claim.
But that didn't happen, according to the proposed class action. 
The defendants chose not to take adequate precautions with the crane "when they had advance warning of severe weather conditions," said the statement of claim.
They also chose not to "set the crane to freely rotate on its vertical axis," or take it down before the bad weather hit.
The suit alleges the defendants were negligent by "choosing to install a crane of inappropriate and inadequate design not built to withstand wind loads outlined in the Canadian Standard Association's Code for Tower Cranes," and Nova Scotia law.
In an interview Friday, developer Wadih Fares refused to answer questions about the claims outlined in the lawsuit.
"We can't comment on this," Fares said. "It's very unfortunate what's been happening, but at this time, we're going to leave it to the legal professionals to deal with."
Fares was optimistic the collapsed crane will soon be cleared away.
"We're really hoping by the end of next week that things will be all cleaned up," he said. "The schedule has been changing on a daily basis, but we believe that things are going OK right now and we hope that, by the end of the week, we'll be all done." 
Wagner hopes the case is settled soon for the eight businesses closed by the crane collapse and individuals he hopes to represent in a class action case. 
"They want to have a solution to keep themselves in business and be able to return to the profitability that they had been experiencing prior to the crane collapse," he said Friday. "A quick solution is the best solution." 
Thornbloom, a home décor and furniture store on South Park, has been closed since the crane tumbled. 
"Due to the emergency evacuation order and localized state of emergency, customers have been unable to visit Thornbloom," said the statement of claim. "As a result, Thornbloom has suffered a significant reduction in sales revenue." 
Area residents "suffered loss and damages," including having to pay for somewhere else to live, said Wagner's statement of claim.
While nobody was hurt when the crane collapsed, "many have been harmed in a psychological sense in terms of the disruption, and, in fact, some even witnessing the crane coming towards them. So it is pretty scary for some of those individuals," Wagner said Friday.

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