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January 26, 2016

Woman injured in Lululemon roof collapse files negligence lawsuit

Allison Friedman said as the building crumbled, 'I felt that I was losing my life'

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Allison_Friedman John Kopp/PhillyVoice

Allison Friedman sits beside her lawyer, Robert Mongeluzzi, during a press conference announcing a negligence lawsuit she filed against Pearl Properties for injuries she sustained when the roof of a Lululemon Athletica store collapsed.

A special education teacher injured when the roof of Lululemon Athletica in Center City collapsed on shoppers filed a negligence lawsuit Tuesday against the owners of the adjacent property. 

The collapse, which happened one year ago Wednesday, occurred when debris from a neighboring building crashed through the Lululemon store, located at 1527 Walnut St. Eight employees and five customers were inside the store at the time.  

Attorney Bob Mongeluzzi announced the lawsuit had been filed during a press conference Tuesday afternoon, calling the collapse "an easily preventable catastrophe."

"Properly maintained and inspected buildings do not collapse," Mongeluzzi said from his firm's office on the 52nd floor of 1 Liberty Place. "A commercial landlord in Philadelphia has a legal responsibility and a moral responsibility to inspect and maintain their properties so they don't collapse onto their neighbors. That didn't occur here."

He represents plaintiff Allison Friedman, of Philadelphia, who will be 29 years old on Friday, and her 29-year-old husband, Larry Friedman. Allison Friedman was inside the store shopping with two friends when the roof collapsed. As a result of the injuries she suffered, Friedman said she will undergo spinal fusion surgery on Wednesday.

"It's really sad," Friedman said." My birthday last year was spent on the couch in pain. This year it will be in the hospital in pain."

Paperwork filed with the lawsuit did not specify exactly how much the Friedmans are seeking in compensation except that it is more than $50,000.

Pearl Properties, LLC, the defendant that owns the adjacent property, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. The roof-level, parapet wall of its property collapsed, resulting in hundreds of bricks falling onto the Lululemon store roof.  

"This collapse occurred because of thawing and freezing, because of penetration into the parapet wall," Mongeluzzi said, adding it went unchecked for some time.

NoneThom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

The Lululemon store on 1527 Walnut Street in Philadelphia.


Friedman, who choked back tears during the press conference, described the collapse. She was trapped beneath the rubble until taken by stretcher to Hahnemann University Hospital. 

"We heard a very loud bang. Within seconds we heard it again. That was it," Friedman said. "Everything just came crashing down. In that moment, I felt that I was losing my life. I thought I was dying right then and there."

Friedman expects to be hospitalized at least five days from her surgery, originally scheduled for a date earlier this year. Friedman said she has been in pain every day since the collapse and no longer enjoys the active lifestyle she lived, which included running and working out. 

"I had surgery on my shoulder in August," Friedman said. "I'm having surgery (Wednesday) on my spine. I spend four days a week in physical therapy. I go to countless doctors appointments. Physically and mentally, it's been really, incredibly difficult."

Mongeluzzi represented victims in the 2013 Salvation Army building collapse, which killed six people when a neighboring structure collapsed onto the thrift store. Unlike that case, Mongeluzzi said he did not name Lululemon as a defendant becuase the company was not warned of any danger.