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April 09, 2018 06:00 PM

Eastwold Smoke Shop Sues Companies Following Building Collapse

Sioux Falls, SD

The owner of the business next to the Copper Lounge is suing his landlord, Hultgren Construction and several other businesses connected to the project.  It's the fourth lawsuit to surface following the deadly building collapse.

KELOLAND Investigates first broke the story about the Eastwold Smoke Shop owner's claims that the building should not have been torn down in December 2017, a year after the building collapse.

At the time, Eastwold Smoke Shop owner Tim Kant told us he was heading into arbitration with the landlord of the building.  But that apparently didn't work because Eastwold has now filed a lawsuit. 

Kant told us his business went down 40 percent after he was forced to move out of Eastwold's original location.

Eastwold Smoke Shop is now suing for breach of contract.  Kant told us tearing the building down violated the terms of his lease, which says the landlord was supposed to repair or restore the premise in the case of disaster, unless the building was 75 percent destroyed. Then the lease could be terminated with written notice to the tenant, Kant, within 15 days after the destruction. 

 "They not only didn't tell me it wasn't inhabitable--they started tearing the building down nine days later when I had a 15-day clause in there that that they had to give me notice to do that," Kant said on December 21, 2017.

Eastwold Smoke Shop is also suing Aaron Hultgren and Hultgren Construction, LLC, claiming they "lacked experience, training and competence" to perform the job on the Copper Lounge in a "reasonable and safe manner."

The lawsuit also contends that Limited Liability Corporations: Legacy Development and Consulting, Boomerang Investments, CLP Investments and Olympia Real Estate Holdings should all have known that Hultgren wasn't qualified and that they themselves didn't have the "experience, training and competence to manage and oversee" Hultgren's work.  

The Eastwold lawsuit also claims the defendants didn't take any action to investigate cracks in the wall or do anything about them. Shortly after the building collapse, Kant told KELOLAND Investigates about the cracks.

"In the last couple of weeks, he's been noticing cracks in the wall.  And we actually reported it or he's reported it to the contractor and they told him they were going to go up and check it out," Kant said on December 5, 2016.

Kant reported the cracks in the building to the City on the morning of the collapse.

The lawsuit also names RISE, who was the structural engineer for the Lewis Drug project. Eastwold says RISE didn't warn the business about dangers of the demolition.

In December of 2016, RISE lead engineer for the project Justin Christensen told KELOLAND Investigates he was designing a support system for the load bearing wall that was being taken out before the collapse. But Christensen told KELOLAND News he was not consulted or involved in the demolition of the wall or temporary shoring for it. 

Christensen gave KELOLAND Investigates this statement on December 5, 2016:

"RISE Structural Associates, Inc. was working with the project architect for the Downtown Lewis Drug project to provide design with respect to the new construction, which had not yet commenced.  We were neither involved, nor consulted, during the demolition of the existing wall or design of the temporary shoring for the existing wall," Justin Christensen, RISE Structural Associates, Inc.

According to the lawsuit, Eastwold is concerned about Kant, his employees and customers being exposed to asbestos during the improper removal of it by those named in the suit.

KELOLAND Investigates brought you these pictures from a state inspection that found asbestos in the Copper Lounge building after the collapse. 

Aaron Hultgren and Norm Drake were fined $20,000 for violations for improper asbestos removal.

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