Lawsuits pile up in Kelowna crane collapse with manufacturer facing legal action

Construction firm and widows of workers allege 'dangerous defect' in equipment

Lawsuits pile up in Kelowna crane collapse with manufacturer facing legal action

A flurry of legal activity led up to the second anniversary of a deadly crane collapse in Kelowna, British Columbia. There are now at least ten lawsuits that have been filed with the latest legal actions targeting the manufacturer of the crane, Liebherr-Canada, as widows and other plaintiffs allege a "dangerous defect" in the equipment.

The construction project, overseen by Stemmer Construction, was contracted by Mission Group Enterprises, both of which have also been named in various lawsuits. The crane, manufactured by Liebherr, was under the operation of Stemmer Construction when it collapsed on July 12, 2021, killing five people.

Among the victims were four construction workers: Cailen Vilnes, Jared Zook, and brothers Eric and Patrick Stemmer. A fifth victim, Brad Zawislak, was in an adjacent building at the time, also lost his life.

The widows of three of the construction workers, Katherine Stemmer, Nikita Stemmer, and Jaydean Rose Braham, are now taking legal action against Liebherr-Canada, claiming a "dangerous defect" in the crane resulted in the deaths of their husbands.

The widows' legal claims, filed just before the two-year cutoff period to initiate court proceedings, join the multitude of lawsuits filed against Stemmer Construction, Mission Group, and Liebherr. In their filings, the widows assert the accident deprived them of their husbands' “love, support, guidance, care, and financial stability.”

The damages sought in these cases remain undisclosed.

Zawislak's widow, Helen Furuya, was the first to take legal action, filing a claim against Stemmer Construction alleging negligence.

The lawsuits provide glimpses into the horrifying events that unfolded during the crane collapse.

Shelby Austin Miller, who was in the same office as Zawislak, narrowly escaped the falling crane, witnessing his coworker being crushed before his eyes. Chris Fraser, another survivor, describes being trapped under his desk amidst the rubble, eventually crawling to safety. The plaintiffs' accounts shed light on the immediate aftermath of the incident and the traumatic experiences they endured.

While Stemmer Construction has faced the majority of the blame in the lawsuits, the construction firm has filed its own legal action, pointing the finger at Liebherr-Canada. Their court documents mention a "dangerous defect" in the crane, although specific details regarding the defect remain undisclosed.

WorkSafeBC concluded its investigation into the crane collapse in May; however, the findings have not been made public due to an ongoing criminal investigation by the RCMP. The decision not to make the report public has drawn criticism, including from the United Steelworkers.

Neither the lawyer representing the widows nor Liebherr-Canada has provided immediate comments on the ongoing legal proceedings. It is important to note that none of the allegations made in the lawsuits have been proven in court.

As the legal battles unfold, the residents of Kelowna await answers and hope for justice for the lives lost and the individuals affected by this tragic event.