New Jersey: Successful Defense of Tropicana Casino & Resort Following Collapse of Parking Garage

04/11/07

Jack Snyder, Chair of Rawle & Henderson’s Catastrophic Loss Group, his partner William Carr, and their trial team successfully defended the Tropicana Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Aztar Corporation, and Adamar of New Jersey, Inc. in the wrongful death and personal injury actions arising out of the collapse of a parking garage during construction.  The accident resulted in the deaths of 4 construction workers, approximately 12 catastrophic injuries, and dozens of less serious injuries.

On October 30, 2003 after topping out a 32 story hotel and while placing concrete for the 8th floor of a 10 story parking garage, both of which were part of a $275 million expansion project at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino, a section of the parking garage collapsed as concrete was being poured resulting in the deaths and injuries to scores of construction workers. Tropicana had retained a Design-Build Contractor from Philadelphia to design and complete the expansion project, including selection of its own subcontractors and consultants as part of its design-build team.

The Catastrophic Loss Group was selected as lead trial counsel almost a year after the litigation commenced and was brought into the case to aggressively drive the discovery process.  The team monitored the several OSHA trials involving the various contractors on the project, reviewed and analyzed nearly 2 million pages of documents, retained approximately a dozen expert consultants, took and defended more than 250 party, fact witness and expert witness depositions, prepared scores of motions and legal briefs, and prepared for a trial which was expected to last more than a year.

The defense of Tropicana revolved around the Design-Build Construction Agreement that provides for a single point of centralized responsibility placed upon the Design-Build Contractor for all phases of the construction project beginning with the design phase and proceeding through the pre-construction phase and on through to completion of the construction phase of the project.  Under the Design-Build Agreement, the Design-Build Contractor accepted all of the risks of the preparation of the design, the hiring of subcontractors and consultants, the preparation of the architectural and engineering drawings and design documents, scheduling of the work, inspections and testing, materials, costs, insurance, and safety on the site.  The Design-Build Contractor  exercised complete and total control over the project area as well as the means and methods of all of the work performed on the project.

Despite a $250 million settlement demand and our opponents and the media dubbing of this matter as the “Tropicana Casino Parking Garage Collapse Case,” it was ultimately determined, through the extensive and lengthy discovery process, investigation of more than a dozen defendants, and several mediations shortly before trial was to begin, that Tropicana’s role in the accident was minimal at best, which was reflected in the overall resolution of the matters.  Therefore, although the team was prepared and ready to try this case to verdict, the cases favorably resolved on behalf of Tropicana, Aztar and Adamar.


John J. Snyder focuses his trial practice in the area of the defense of catastrophic injury, with particular emphasis on construction, industrial, pharmaceutical, medical malpractice and product liability matters. A very experienced litigator, he has tried a very significant number of trials to verdict in Philadelphia and surrounding counties. He specializes in receiving high-exposure cases only weeks to a few months before trial. He is admitted to practice in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. He is also admitted to practice in the federal courts of Pennsylvania, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Jack is a native of Philadelphia and was a scholar/athlete at St. Joseph’s University and the captain of the basketball team in 1971. He graduated from Temple University Law School in 1975. Jack is a member of the prestigious American Board of Trial Advocates, American Bar Association, Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association and the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association. He has been rated AV by Martindale-Hubbell and was selected, by his peers, as a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer in 2004, the year of it’s inception, and each year thereafter, including the present.

William J. Carr focuses his trial practice in the area of construction/industrial accidents, catastrophic injury defense, primarily in the arena of medical malpractice, products liability, premises liability, and health care law. His experience includes service as a litigation supervisor with the Medical Professional Liability Catastrophe Loss Fund (now known as the Mcare Fund), where he successfully negotiated hundreds of high-exposure cases. He also directed the mass tort litigation department including the pedicle bone screw and breast implant cases. In addition, Bill has successfully represented individual physicians in the Phen-Fen mass tort litigation cases in Philadelphia County without settlement or payment being made on their behalf.  He received his bachelor’s degree from Penn State University in 1991 and his law degree from Widener University in 1996. Bill is admitted to practice in the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey as well as the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. He is also a member of the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Bar Associations.