Warning: This story includes content that may be disturbing to some readers. Discretion is advised.
The family members of two of the men injured in the Teeple Terrace building collapse last December in London, Ont., have launched a lawsuit, seeking $2 million in damages.
The lawsuit, filed by William and Mary Hurl, parents of Jacob Hurl, and Kaitlin Jaklitsch, wife of Travis Jaklitsch, was launched to hold the parties responsible for the Dec. 11, 2020, collapse accountable and to raise awareness about the laws involving construction workers’ rights, according to William Hurl.
The current system under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board precludes those working in the construction industry who are injured on the job from suing their employers, regardless of who is at fault.
As Schedule 1 workers, both Jacob Hurl and Travis Jaklitsch are unable to sue for compensation.
“I am trying to make sure people like this should not be in the building industry anymore and if our little $2 million can help move that along down the road then I am proud as a peacock,” William Hurl said.
“Ideally Jake and Travis would be the front men, but the province has taken that away from them, so we have to be.”
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The lawsuit is filed against the City of London, the Ministry of Labour, the developers; The Nest on Wonderland Inc., Brock Development Group Inc., Michelle Doornbosch, and Jeremy Doornbosch.
The Nest is a multi-level residential development that partially collapsed at 555 Teeple Terrace, which is owned by Brock Development.
Michelle Doornbosch is listed as the owner and director of Brock and president of The Nest on Wonderland, while the lawsuit said Jeremy Doornbosch is listed as the owner and site supervisor of Brock Development on his LinkedIn profile.
Both Jacob and Travis were severely injured while working on 555 Teeple when it partially collapsed, trapping six people, and killing two.
Travis had been working on the third floor cleaning up when the collapse happened, knocking him unconscious and covering him in rubble after he fell through at least one floor. Travis suffered a number of injuries, including a shattered ankle, broken fibula, three spinal fractures, rib fractures, neck fractures and concrete burns, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit said Travis also suffered from nervous shock, emotional trauma, post-traumatic stress and anxiety among other mental issues.
Jacob Hurl, who had been on the first floor when the building collapsed, had his legs caught under the rubble and was hit by falling concrete and metal.
Jacob was trapped for four hours and suffered numerous injuries including spinal damage — a broken sacrum and vertebrae t3 to t5 have compression fractures — as well as a concussion and a cracked skull, which needed nine stitches. He also suffered a broken femur, broken hip and massive chemical burns.
Mentally, the lawsuit said, Jacob is suffering nervous shock, emotional trauma, post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression, to name a few conditions.
Although the Ministry of Labour investigation into the collapse is ongoing, the statement of claim said the building partly collapsed under the weight of newly poured concrete on the fourth floor.
The statement of claim contains allegations not proven in court.
The statement of claim alleges Brock Developments and Michelle and Jeremy Doornbosch were not compliant with rules around inspections and if they had been “ensuring that construction was compliant,” the building would not have collapsed.
The lawsuit also claims Nest, Brock Developments and Michelle and Jeremy Doornbosch had an obligation to ensure workers were compliant with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and that it was their responsibility to ensure the proper safety equipment and precautions were used and taken.
The Nest and Brock Developments did not respond to Global’s request for comment.
The statement of claim also alleges the City of London had the responsibility “to ensure that the correct inspections were being conducted,” and it is the “City’s responsibility to ensure that the construction of the structure was compliant.”
The lawsuit alleges that had the city conducted the proper inspections, “the deficiencies would have been discovered and corrected.”
“Our thoughts continue to be with the families of those whose lives were lost that day and with the individuals who suffered injuries,” a City of London spokesperson said in an email, following a request for comment.
As for the Ministry of Labour, the lawsuit alleges the ministry was aware the site was unsafe because a subcontractor working at The Nest had notified the ministry about structural issues with the building on Dec. 11, 2020.
“The subcontractor refused to attend the Site on December 11, 2020, due to unsafe working conditions. The Ministry failed to attend and inspect the working conditions, as described by the subcontractor,” the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit alleges that if the ministry had inspected the working conditions “promptly,” it would have stopped the building collapse or at least ensured workers were not present when it happened.
In a response to Global’s request for comment, a spokesperson for the ministry wrote in an email: “The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development is strongly committed to the health and safety of all Ontario workers. As the family’s claim is currently before the courts, it would be inappropriate to comment at this time.”
The statement also said the incident is still under investigation by the Ministry.
Given the allegations, William, Mary and Kaitlin are all seeking damages for loss of income, additional travel expenses, out-of-pocket expenses to outfit the homes to accommodate Travis and Jacob, and for suffering headaches, emotional and psychological trauma, and insomnia.
The three are looking for $1 million in general damages under the Family Law Act and $500,000 in both aggravated damages and punitive damages.
Speaking with Global News, William Hurl said both he and his wife as well as Kaitlin had their lives completely upended having to care for their injured loved ones around the clock, including his wife having to stop work for several months to care for their son.
“When people make the accusation that it’s about the money — you are God damn right, because that’s the only recourse we have, and the only place we can hit these people is in the pocketbooks,” William Hurl said.
“Until you get the phone call your son is pinned under a four-storey building and we are not sure he is going to live — when you get that phone call you will clearly understand where I and Mary are coming from.”
In its statement of defence, the Corporation of the City of London alleges that changes to the original plan were made after the permits were issued and is denying any liability to the plaintiffs.
In the defence, the city alleges after the plans for the building were reviewed by the city’s building division and permits were approved based on those plans, changes to the design of the building were made and not approved.
“A Conditional Permit Agreement, dated October 23, 2019, was signed between the City and Nest on Wonderland Inc. on the basis that the applicant had requested a conditional permit from the City prior to meeting all requirements to obtain a building permit under the Ontario Building Code Act,” the statement of defence says.
The city’s defence also states that the “applicant accepted all risk in connection with the work undertaken under the conditional permit,” and that any damages are “at the sole risk and expense of the applicant.”
The city adds that building inspectors visited the project on a number of occasions between June 2020 and Dec. 1, 2020, and that during the last visual inspection of the structure on Nov. 13, 2020, the inspectors “determined the structure of these floors was in general conformance.”
The city also says that “inspectors are not engineers and do not have the professional experience to undertake a detailed review of an engineered structure.” It adds that “the applicant did not advise the City that it had constructed the roof (fourth floor)” and that the “applicant did at no time request any inspections of the City of the roof structure prior to pouring the roof on Dec 11, 2020.”
The Ministry of Labour has not yet filed a statement of defence but has informed the court that it intends to file one.
None of the other parties involved in the lawsuit have filed a statement of defence as of the morning of Sept. 3.