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Handful Of Witnesses Testify 1st Week Of Market Street Collapse Trial

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - At the Market Street building collapse civil trial, the list of potential witnesses stands at 243, and while not all were expected to be called, only a handful testified during the first week of the case.

The rules of engagement are different from criminal trials, or made for TV courtroom dramas. During opening statements, when opposing counsel heard something objectionable, they could only stand up briefly - and silently - then sit down again. (After watching it for two days running, it reminded some of a "Whack-a-mole" game.)

Judge Teresa Sarmina has also imposed strict limits on bringing up evidence of emotional distress in the first portion, the liability phase.

A Battalion Chief who led the crew that found a victim alive 13-hours after the collapse could only describe how they found her, and not the drama and emotion of extricating her from the rubble.

Plaintiff and defense lawyers also argued over how the case should be framed as it relates to the financial liability claims against one of the main defendants, the Salvation Army.

Seven of the 12 people who were injured worked at the thrift store, but under state law, they are not permitted to make claims against the Salvation Army.

Defense lawyers wanted the judge to point that out to jurors, but she declined that request.

This civil case is in legal terms, a bifurcated trial, split into separate liability and damages phases.

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