Warren County Circuit Court to hear case of Clay Street collapsed building Nov. 27|[09/17/07]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Legal arguments to determine the future of the collapsed downtown building on Clay near Washington Street will be considered before Warren County Circuit Judge Isadore Patrick Nov. 27, nearly two years after the structure imploded during renovations.

At issue is whether the building’s owners, Preston and Mary Reuther, will be able to demolish what remains of 707-713 Clay. Formerly O’Neill-McNamara Hardware and Thomas Furniture, it collapsed Jan. 25, 2006, as workers inside were cleaning it in preparation for an antique mall the Reuthers wanted to operate at the site.

A summary judgment will be sought, associate city attorney Bobby Robinson said Tuesday. If a ruling favors the City of Vicksburg, however, the remnants may be put up for sale and restoration.

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The case has bounced around the legal system since attempts to settle the matter broke down in late 2006.

Vicksburg-based Chancellor Vicki Roach Barnes recused herself from the case, sending it to Indianola-based Chancery Judge Jane Weathersby who sent it to Greenville-based Chancellor Marie Wilson. A third-party defendant, Zurich Insurance Services Inc., filed a response to claims for punitive damages by the Reuthers. The company said chancery court was the wrong court to hear the matter.

In July, the case was moved to Judge Patrick’s court after Greenville-based Chancellor Wilson found her court had no jurisdiction.

Traffic at the intersection was halted for six months after the collapse, and a chain-link fence has surrounded the front of the property nearly since its collapse.

Twenty-three workers were inside when the building fell, none of whom was injured.