Over three months since a building collapsed in Center City, killing six people, lawyers for the victims pleaded with a judge to get their hands on critical documents which they say will reveal what happened and who was responsible.
Two employees and four customers died inside the Salvation Army thrift store at 22nd and Market Streets after an adjacent building that was under demolition crumbled on top of the store on June 5. Thirteen other people were injured.
On Monday, a judge allowed attorneys for the victims to ask for documents related to the collapse.
"What we can do is get the documents which in many respects form the backbone of our case and defer asking questions of witnesses who may be under criminal investigation to a later time," said Bob Mongeluzzi, one of the attorneys.
"Documents sometimes tend to disappear," said Steven Wigrizer, another attorney. "We want production of those documents now."
Last week, the family of Mary Lea Simpson, 24, who was buried to death in the collapse, filed the first wrongful death lawsuit in the tragedy. Named in the filing are The Salvation Army, developer Richard Basciano, his company STB Investments, contractor Griffin Campbell, construction expediter and architect Plato Marinakos and excavator operator Sean Benschop a.k.a. Kary Roberts.
Steven Wigrizer, the attorney representing Simpson's family, tells NBC10.com The Salvation Army failed to protect its customers and employees knowing demolition work was going on at the adjacent building.
On Monday, the judge also gave the attorneys permission to take the testimony of the last hospitalized victim from the collapse. However, the judge also ruled he would not force any of the defendants to testify if they faced criminal charges.
"He balanced the rights of everyone," said Andrew Stern, another attorney. "So that the individual defendants' fifth amendment rights are upheld. He struck a very careful balance."
The attorneys for the property owner as well as the Salvation Army also said they were fine with the judge's ruling.
"I think his ruling was fair and appropriate under the circumstances," said Eric Weiss, the attorney for the Salvation Army. "As long as everyone's rights are protected."
The judge previously delayed all civil lawsuits for nine months to allow the criminal prosecution to play out.