By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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The law firms of Meyers & Flowers and Clark Frost Zucchi filed a lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of Paul Rojas, who they said was severely injured in the collapse on March 31. His injuries were not specified in the lawsuit, but the law firm representing him said they were “severe orthopedic injuries.”
The lawsuit alleges that Maria and Jesus Martinez, the owners of The Apollo, failed to take any precautions to ensure the safety of the attendees at the concert despite numerous weather warnings through the day.
There were roughly 260 people inside when the roof collapsed. One person was killed and nearly 50 others were treated for injuries at local hospitals.
“There is no dispute that the Apollo Theatre is a historic building in our community that has hosted many significant events over the last 100 years,” Kevin Frost, partner at Clark Frost Zucchi, said in a news release. “Simply because the Apollo is revered in our community, however, does not give its owners complete freedom to ignore basic safety measures for its guests.”
Frost, who is also a Rockford alderman, said The Apollo “woefully failed its guests, including Mr. Rojas, by electing to conduct a for-profit concert as if nothing was happening outside despite the severe storm warnings that had been in effect since early that afternoon.”
The lawsuit was filed in Boone County court and a case management conference is scheduled for Nov. 17, online court records show.
The civil complaint alleges that regardless of the activation of tornado warnings more than 20 minutes before the tornado struck Belvidere, the Apollo did not instruct its guests to seek shelter.
“We intend to discover the extent to which the Apollo disregarded essential safety measures, which resulted in severe injuries to our client and numerous other concert attendees,” Peter J. Flowers, partner at Meyers & Flowers, said in a news release.
The lawsuit seeks damages of more than $50,000. In Illinois, lawsuits do not have to specify an exact amount sought for damages, only whether it exceeds $50,000.
“It is important to emphasize that these injuries were not a direct consequence of the tornado itself, but rather the theatre’s failure to implement basic safety precautions despite having full knowledge of the imminent tornado threat. This prioritization of concert ticket sales over the well-being of attendees is wholly unacceptable.”
Representatives of the Martinez family were not able to be reached immediately. We’ll update this story with comment from them when possible.