Relatives of two workers injured when an apartment building under construction in west London partially collapsed are seeking $2 million in damages from the developer of the project, the City of London and the Ontario Ministry of Labour.

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Relatives of two workers injured when an apartment building under construction in west London partially collapsed are seeking $2 million in damages from the developer of the project, the City of London and the Ontario Ministry of Labour.

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The lawsuit over the Dec. 11, 2020 collapse, at the Nest on Wonderland midrise apartment building on Teeple Terrace at Wonderland Road, was launched to shine a light on a system that fails workers in industries such as construction, who can’t sue their employers even when injured on the job, one of the plaintiff says.

“In this province, we’ve decided that we’re going to throw the workers under the bus to protect the rights of land developers and builders, so that they can make millions while workers like (my son) have to struggle with lifelong injuries and lifelong mental issues,” said Bill Hurl, the father of Jacob Hurl, one of five workers injured when part of the four-storey building collapsed.

“They don’t give a God damn about the people who died in that building or the kids that were hurt in that building.”

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Two workers were killed and five hurt in the partial collapse that stunned London and created headlines nationwide.

Michelle Doornbosch, president of Nest on Wonderland, said in a statement emailed to The Free Press in December the company is co-operating with regulators and was “devastated” by the incident.

“We are co-operating fully with the regulatory authorities as they carry out their investigation,” she said.

“This is an extremely sad day for Nest on Wonderland. We are devastated by this incident, and our thoughts remain with the affected workers, their families, friends and co-workers. Our first priority is always the safety of our employees, contractors and the community in which we work and live.”

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Two people were killed and five were injured when a four-storey apartment building that’s under construction in London partially collapsed on Friday Dec. 11, 2020. (Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press)
Two people were killed and five were injured when a four-storey apartment building that’s under construction in London partially collapsed on Friday Dec. 11, 2020. (Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press)

In a statement of claim obtained by The London Free Press, Kaitlin Jaklitsch, the wife of Travis Jaklitsch, and Bill and Mary Hurl, parents of Jacob Hurl, workers injured in the collapse, are suing:

  • Brock Development Group Inc. (BDGI), the company behind the Nest on Wonderland project
  • Nest on Wonderland Inc.
  • Michelle Doornbosh, who Ontario corporate records showed was listed as president of both companies
  • Jeremy Doornbosch
  • The City of London, and
  • The Ontario Ministry of Labour

In the lawsuit, the relatives of the workers contend the owners of the project failed to ensure the construction project was compliant with Ontario’s Building Code Act and that both the City of London and the Ontario Ministry of Labour failed to ensure the safety of the workers.

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They also allege the ministry was notified Dec. 11, the day of the collapse, by a subcontractor working at the project there “were structural issues with the building” but the ministry failed to inspect the complaints, allowing work to continue.

“But for the failure of BDGI, Michelle and Jeremy (Doornbosch) to ensure that the construction was compliant with the code, and the municipal bylaws, and structurally sound in general, the building would not have collapsed and/or there would not have been any workers present in the building when it collapsed,” the statement of claim contends.

“Had the City (of London) conducted the proper inspections, the deficiencies would have been discovered and corrected,” it adds.

Statements of claim, and defences filed in response, contain allegations not yet tested in court.

The collapse happened about midday on Dec. 11 at the four-storey apartment complex being built at 555 Teeple Terrace, along Wonderland Road near London’s Westmount neighbourhood.

Some of the estimated 40 workers present have described seeing and hearing a freshly poured concrete section on the fourth floor collapse and smash down onto each floor beneath to the ground.

Two workers were killed: John Martens, 21, of Langton, and Henry Harder, 26, of Tillsonburg.

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The cause of the collapse remained under investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Labour as of Aug. 16. Citing the ongoing probe, a ministry spokesperson declined to say whether the decision had been made to lay charges.

The ministry “cannot comment on any specific part of the investigation,” the spokesperson said.

Something is wrong in the province when construction of the project was allowed to resume even before knowing the cause of the collapse, Bill Hurl said.

“I don’t have a whole lot of faith that anybody’s going to be charged with anything,” he said. “The chances of that happening are as good as me flying off into the sunset with wings that I just grew.

“The fact that they allowed that building to resume construction before the report was even out with a cause of the collapse that tells you all you need to know about the building industry,” Hurl said.

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He said he sees the lawsuit as the only recourse he has to protect the interest of his son and other workers, because, in most cases, workers covered under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act can’t sue their employers.

Construction of Nest on Wonderland complex was allowed to resume in early 2021.

Kaitlin Jaklitsch could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday.

In the lawsuit, the relatives of the workers claim they have suffered severe emotional and psychological trauma as well as loss of income and additional expenses as a result of the injuries suffered by their loved ones. They are seeking $1 million in general damages plus $500,000 in aggravated damages and $500,000 in punitive damages.

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In its statement of defence, the City of London denies the allegations against it, adding it bears no responsibility for the collapse or the injuries suffered by the workers.

As part of its defence, the city alleges it learned after the collapse the applicant and its contractors had made changes to the design of the building that weren’t approved by the city.

The city also claims the builders of the project never requested an inspection of the roof structure before pouring the roof on Dec. 11 and that city building inspectors attended the site several times between June and December of 2020.

“The City alleges that if there was negligence in respect of the design or construction of the project, then such were caused by the actions of the applicant, its contractors, employees, professional engineers and architects, and any other agents who were responsible for the design and construction of the project,” the city’s statement of defence states.

The other defendants have not yet filed a statement of defence to the civil case.

[email protected]

Twitter.com/JuhaatLFPress

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