Judge Appoints Hard Rock Hotel Bankruptcy Mediator

Judge Appoints Hard Rock Hotel Bankruptcy Mediator

A judge in New Orleans, Louisiana, has brought in a mediator to try to resolve a dispute with hundreds of people who are claiming damages from the collapse of part of a nearly three-year-old hotel under construction.

The plaintiffs say they were injured, a loved one died or their business was damaged when the top floors of the planned Hard Rock Hotel collapsed on October 12, 2019. six-lane Canal Street for over a year. It took 10 months before all the bodies were removed and 18 months before Canal Street became two-way.

Two large cranes of the partially collapsed Hard Rock Hotel under construction exploded due to an explosion in New Orleans, Sunday, October 20, 2019. On October 12, three workers died when several floors of a high-rise building exploded. (David Grunfeld/Lawyer via AP)

According to WWL-TV, there was no progress in the cases for almost two years, and civil district judge Kern Reese appointed John Perry, Jr. of Baton Rouge as a special master to work out a settlement agreement.

“For our clients, this is the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Mike Brandner Jr., who represents more than 40 affected construction workers.

Perry will negotiate with a committee of 13 plaintiffs’ attorneys, as well as hotel developers and building contractors.

“Perhaps it will be easy to negotiate with some defendants, and very difficult with others,” Perry told the TV channel on Friday. “And we’ll just have to discuss it in traditional negotiations to make that decision.”

According to the channel, in some cases, Perry has already settled the conflict.

Paul Thibodeau of 1031 Canal Development said they have been working with Perry “to resolve numerous claims and look forward to continuing this effort.”

The Orleans County District Attorney’s Office is investigating possible allegations of negligence but has yet to file any charges. The U.S. Health and Safety Administration charged the designer, general contractor and some subcontractors with safety violations, but lead engineer James Hislip is still appealing.

Perry sent a letter Thursday saying that if the settlement was approved, he would launch a compensation program to distribute any money put in by the defendants’ insurance companies. It is also asking plaintiffs’ attorneys to recommend that their clients participate in the compensation program, with a September 28 deadline for attorneys to agree to do so.

“We hope that in the near future we will be able to implement a program that is acceptable to all participants,” Perry said. “At that point, we can try to discuss the claims with the defendants.”

Agreeing to participate in the process would avoid lengthy litigation, but would require Perry’s decision. His “decisions will be final,” says the consent form shared by Perry. “There will be no appeal to the court or any other body.”

Plaintiffs may opt out of any settlement and proceed with the case in court.

“But if they have to collect 100 statements and hire 25 experts, and start setting trial dates and working their way through the traditional process, it will take years,” Perry said. “And we’re trying to land this plane and give everyone the opportunity to resolve these claims quickly and efficiently.”

Reese ordered that 4 percent of all claims payments cover legal costs, mainly the storage of evidence recovered from the site of the collapse.

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

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