NEWS

Elliot Lake Mall Collapse: Victims' Families File Suit Seeking Millions

10/02/2012 11:00 EDT | Updated 12/02/2012 05:12 EST
AP
An OPP officer walks near the rubble of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ontario, on Wednesday, June 27, 2012, after the mall's roof collapse last Saturday. Officials recovered two bodies after dismantling a piece of a partially collapsed Ontario shopping mall on Wednesday and said they are confident no other victims are inside. The renewed rescue effort came after angry residents shouted down fears that the unstable structure made the work too risky to continue. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)
TORONTO - Relatives of two women killed when a rooftop garage collapsed in Elliot Lake, Ont., in June are alleging the provincial government and mall owner were negligent in lawsuits that claim complaints about the structure were ignored.

The parallel suits, which also name the city and engineers who said the Algo Centre Mall was safe, seek several million dollars in punitive and aggravated damages for relatives of Doloris Perizzolo and Lucie Aylwin.

Overall, the defendants showed "wanton and reckless disregard" for the two victims, the claims filed this week allege.

"You think it's fair what happened?" Aylwin's father Rejean said Tuesday from his home near Sudbury, Ont.

"If you lose a kid, you'll know what we're going through."

Among other things, the suit alleges negligence against the province's Ministry of Labour and the City of Elliot Lake for failing to adequately inspect the mall, leaving it in a "condition of non-repair."

"They knew, or ought to have known, that Algo Centre Mall was not in proper condition for use," according to the statements of claim.

A lawyer representing the mall's owner has previously said the shopping centre had received $1 million worth of renovations and had been inspected on a regular basis.

The defendants have yet to file a defence, and none of the allegations has been proven in any court.

Perizzolo, 74, and Aylwin 37, died in the rubble when part of the mall's rooftop garage collapsed June 23.

The collapse in which several people were injured, sparked days of frantic search-and-rescue efforts.

A public inquiry is underway, with hearings expected to start in the new year, as is a criminal investigation. A proposed class-action has also been launched on behalf of local residents.

The new suits filed in Ontario Superior Court in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., allege mall owner Eastwood Mall Inc. and its president Robert Nazarian were negligent in their inspection and maintenance of the facility.

"In an effort to reduce expenses, they eliminated service contracts, reduced staff and equipment, and took other cost-cutting measures," the claims state.

"Consequently, the Algo Centre Mall would not, and could not, be kept free of hazardous conditions."

The claims also allege engineering firm, M.R. Wright and Associates out of Sault Ste. Marie failed to inspect the mall properly and didn't close it down when "it knew or ought to have known the mall was not safe for use."

"This is Canada, not some unregulated third world country," said Roger Oatley, the families' lawyer.

The suits seek a total of $2.25 million on behalf of each of the five plaintiffs, although such awards are rarely made even if the claims are ultimately proven.

The other plaintiffs are Aylwin's mother Rachelle and brother Stephane; and Perizzolo's daughters Teresa and Cindy Lee Allan.

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