A Dallas County jury has awarded an $860 million judgment against Greystar, finding the apartment developer and owner liable for the collapse of a neighboring construction crane during a severe storm, which killed a 29-year-old woman and injured five other residents.
Greystar, a Charleston, South Carolina-based firm, known as the largest operator of apartments in the United States, with management spanning more than 817,000 units or beds globally, through two of its entities expressed its “deepest sympathies to the family impacted by this tragedy,” in a written statement sent to CoStar News.
“We would also like to thank the jury for its work in this case,” the spokeswoman, on behalf of Greystar and the apartment tower, The Gabriella, said in a statement. “We strongly believe, however, that the verdict is unfair and unreasonable and is not supported by the evidence. We are therefore evaluating our options.”
The attorney for the family of Kiersten Smith, who was killed during the crane collapse, said, in announcing the verdict on Twitter, “I’m thankful to the Texas jury that helped hold Greystar accountable for their wrongdoings. My heart will always be with Kiersten Smith’s family as a result of their tragic loss.”
On June 9, 2019, Smith was in her apartment unit’s living room, watching “Grey’s Anatomy” while her fiance prepared a Sunday brunch of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, according to a summary of what happened that day from the family’s lawyer. Her fiance told the attorney there was an ear-splitting boom and when he opened his eyes, the living room was gone.
Smith was recovered from the rubble and was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. The crane, having fallen from an adjacent construction project overseen by Greystar into a neighboring apartment building filled with residents, sliced through the six-story, 424-unit Elan City Lights building before being lodged in the property. The crane carved its way into residential units and tore apart the interior parking garage of the Greystar-owned property.
The crane, owned by Bigge Crane & Rigging Co., was used to build The Gabriella, a 10-story, 370-unit apartment building anchored by a Tom Thumb grocery store. Greystar was the general contractor on the project, which leased the crane from Bigge. Greystar was developing the apartments, which were later completed in 2020, in partnership with Dallas-based Malouf Interests.
Bigge was fined about $26,000 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in December 2019 for surface rust on bolts in the crane, but experts said that didn’t explain the collapse.