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Trial date set in O’Donnell Park lawsuit (UPDATE)

By: Jack Zemlicka, [email protected]//August 3, 2011//

Trial date set in O’Donnell Park lawsuit (UPDATE)

By: Jack Zemlicka, [email protected]//August 3, 2011//

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The O'Donnell Park parking garage in Milwaukee was closed for one year after a portion of a concrete facade fell, killing Jared Kellner. Kellner's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit on Jan. 19. A judge on Wednesday set the trial date for May 1, 2013. (File photo by Kevin Harnack)

A civil trial stemming from the fatal accident at the O’Donnell Park parking garage last summer won’t begin for almost two years.

At a scheduling conference Wednesday, Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Dennis Moroney set a May 1, 2013, trial date for a trio of lawsuits consolidated in his court.

On June 24, 2010, a 13 1/2-ton panel fell from the facade of the garage, killing 15-year-old Greenfield resident Jared Kellner and injuring two others.

Attorneys for the Kellner family filed a lawsuit Jan. 19 alleging negligence on the part of contractors in the design and construction of the parking garage.

East Troy residents Amy and Eric Wosinski, who were injured in the accident, also filed suit against the contractors in January, according to court documents.

A third lawsuit was filed after the accident by Kellner’s father, Chris Kellner, in Dane County.

The contractors named in the lawsuits are Advance Cast Stone Co., Random Lake; J.H. Findorff & Son Inc., Madison; C.D. Smith Construction Inc., Fond du Lac; and Dietz Drafting & Design Inc., Burlington. Four unnamed insurance companies also were listed in the lawsuits.

Al Foeckler, attorney for the Kellner family, said Milwaukee County and the city of Milwaukee would be brought in as additional defendants within a matter of “days.”

The parking garage was closed for more than a year after the accident and re-opened June 28 after $5.4 million in renovations.

Since the re-opening, it has been business as usual for the garage, said Sue Black, Milwaukee County Parks Director, who hasn’t heard any concerns or complaints about the structure.

She said the majority of the garage’s 1,200 spaces routinely had been filled, aided by Summerfest and other lakefront activities.

“It’s probably the safest building around,” she said, “with all the studies and inspections that have been done.”

In setting the trial date, Moroney also set a March 3, 2012, deadline for the defense to file its motion arguing that the claims are barred by the statute of repose, which generally limits liability claims to 10 years after completion of construction.

Construction of the parking garage concluded in the early 1990s.

Attorneys for the defendants declined comment after the conference Wednesday.

But plaintiffs’ lawyers were skeptical that the statute of repose argument would hold up.

“I’m quite confident that based on the issues of law and our review of much of the documents, that they won’t prevail on that issue,” said Tim Andringa, attorney for the Wosinski’s.

Both he and Foeckler also are doubtful that a settlement will be reached before trial.

“I think it’s pretty clear what happened here,” Foeckler said, “and we’re willing to take it to a jury and hold (the defendants) accountable.”

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