Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced on Aug. 25 that the City of New Orleans has filed suit against the owners, their partners and contractors of the Hard Rock Hotel project, which collapsed last October, killing three workers. The suit seeks damages on behalf of the City as it continues to experience significant harm as a result.
“As you heard me say to the entire City last week, we will continue to hold the building’s ownership accountable and stand with our families to seek justice. This lawsuit is a step towards doing just that,” said Mayor Cantrell. “Our City was harmed. Our people were killed. No amount of delay or denial or excuses can change that fact — and we will not allow those responsible to evade responsibility for the damages they have caused to our City.”
Since the partial collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel on Oct. 12, 2019, City personnel, led by New Orleans Fire Department Supt. Tim McConnell, have worked diligently to address physical injury to people and property in the area, and to assure, as much as possible, that no further injury occurs.
“While the City would have preferred to not engage in litigation, we have done so only because the property owners have failed to right the wrongs they have caused,” said City Attorney Sunni LeBeouf.
The remains of José Ponce Arreola, 63, were recovered Aug. 18. Those of Quinnyon Wimberly, 36, were removed from the wreckage Aug. 8; and the body of a third man, Anthony Magrette, 49, was removed a day after the collapse. Now that the remains of have been returned to their families, City officials are turning their attention to recovering of the losses sustained as a result of the collapse, contending that the collapse damaged City property, streets, infrastructure, and required the City to divert $12.3 million in public money to respond to the collapse.
Additionally, the collapse caused the near-total shutdown of one of the city’s critical economic corridors, including the closure of the Saenger Theatre and other neighboring businesses for months, with business closures continuing in some instances.
Through the lawsuit, the City seeks to have the Hard Rock Hotel owners and project contractors held responsible for the costs associated with the City’s response to the collapse.
The City has not been compensated in any way for the harm it has suffered in response to this disaster, and this must be addressed immediately in the interest of the people of New Orleans.
Meanwhile, executives at Hard Rock International want to make it clear that their corporation is not a party in the lawsuit.
“Hard Rock International (HRI) remains committed to the city of New Orleans . . . and extends deep sympathies to the victims and families healing from the loss of their loved ones,” said Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International. “While HRI was initially named in three of the over 40 lawsuits related to the collapse, Hard Rock has since been dismissed from all of those matters . . . and is not a named defendant in or otherwise a party to any of the lawsuits related to the collapse of the hotel project in New Orleans developed/owned by 1031 Canal Owner, LLC. This includes the most recent filing by the City of New Orleans.”