Attorneys representing a woman who suffered severe brain injuries after she was struck by falling debris off of a Noble Square building earlier this month say they intend to file lawsuits against the building’s owners, as well as the company that put up scaffolding around the building in the weeks leading up to the horrific incident.
22-year-old Annie Shea Wheeler was walking home near the intersection of Milwaukee and Ashland on April 6 when pieces of concrete fell from the façade of a building in the area.
She was struck in the head, and was hospitalized with severe injuries, which required brain surgery.
Wheeler spoke out for the first time about the incident during a Monday press conference.
“What I know is this: my injury that day has completely uprooted my life and changed the trajectory of my life,” she said. “This hurts far beyond the already intense physical pain, as my entire world is also changing.”
Attorneys allege that the collapse was “completely preventable,” and accused the building’s owners of “not caring about the health and well-being of community members.”
Attorney Bruno Marasso says that his client is filing suit against the owner of the building, as well as scaffolding companies that erected protective barriers around the building.
The building’s façade was not repaired before the April 6 incident, and attorneys allege that the scaffolding that was erected around the building failed to protect Wheeler from the debris.
“The next thing I remember is opening my eyes on the ground, and seeing my roommate, who happened to be across the street,” she said.
Wheeler says that she was about to graduate college, and was planning to pursue a master’s degree, but those plans are now on hold.
“I’m being forced to leave my partner and being forced to leave the best living situation I’ve ever known,” she said. “And a community and a family here that supports me.”
Marasso says that their investigation discovered that the building’s owners were told by the city in March to make safety repairs to the building.
In a response to NBC 5, the city’s Department of Buildings confirmed that it had ordered the repairs after receiving an anonymous referral via 311.
Officials say they ordered the owners of the building to build a heavy-duty canopy around the building, to hire a structural engineer to assess the façade, and to make emergency repairs.
After part of the façade collapsed, the city filed an emergency motion to appoint a receiver for the building, and the façade was stabilized.
Another court hearing in that case is scheduled for Tuesday.
NBC 5 is awaiting comment from the building’s owners, and one of the scaffolding companies named in the lawsuit referred questions to their attorneys due to the pending litigation.