DALLAS — A jury has awarded $860 million to the plaintiffs in a trial against a development company for the deadly crane collapse at a Dallas apartment complex in June 2019.
The family and estate of the late Kiersten Smith were awarded the amount by a jury on Wednesday.
The jury determined that developer Greystar, which was renting the crane at the time, was at fault in the case. The jury did not find the crane company, Bigge Crane, responsible for their equipment's collapse.
"The accident was not caused by anything Bigge did," said attorney Darrell Barger.
The incident happened in June 2019 at the Elan City Lights apartment complex located on the outskirts of Deep Ellum and Downtown Dallas during severe weather that brought winds as fast as 70 miles per hour.
The collapse killed Smith, 29, and sent five others to the hospital. The incident also made the apartment building uninhabitable, with residents unable to reoccupy their units.
During the trial, lawyers representing the plaintiffs argued that the crane collapsed because developers left the construction equipment in a rigid position during the high winds, not allowing it to "weathervane" and withstand the gusts. They pointed to the fact that other cranes at construction sites across the city were able to withstand these winds as proof that the collapse of the crane at Elan City Lights was avoidable.
"Hopefully companies will learn a lesson from this. It's not just about profit and it's not just about speed. It's about doing things the right way," said Jason Itkin, who represents Smith’s mother Michele Williams.
Smith's family testified during the trial. Attorneys for the family had requested zero dollars for her pain and suffering, symbolizing that their daughter did not suffer as they died. The Dallas County Medical Examiner had ruled that she died from blunt force trauma to her head.
Mental anguish damages were awarded to the Smith family to the tune of $50,012,006. That number is a reference to Room 12006 -- Smith's apartment number at the Elan City Lights.
The Smith family did not attend Wednesday's verdict.
"This is a hard day for [Smith's mother]," attorneys for Smith's family said after the verdict. "Every day is a hard day because she doesn't have her daughter. Hopefully this verdict will bring her some measure of peace so she can go forward knowing her [daughter's] life mattered."
Added attorneys in a press release sent out after the verdict was announced: "The defendants Greystar and Gabriella Tower tried to deny their obvious responsibility for this preventable deadly tragedy, and we are grateful to the jury for holding them accountable and granting a punitive verdict that sends a message that says big companies cannot afford to be reckless with people's lives."