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The Legal Implications of the Miami-Area Condo Collapse


On June 24, 2021, the 12-story Champlain Towers South condominium complex—located in the Miami suburb of Surfside—experienced a partial collapse, destroying 136 units and resulting in 98 deaths. So far, there have been more than two dozen lawsuits filed against the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association.

The residents claim that the association knew or should have known of major structural problems throughout the building and failed to make the necessary repairs. This failure led to the loss of residents’ homes and property, injuries, and deaths.

In the days following the disaster, a nine-page structural engineering report—dated October 8, 2018—from Morabito Consultants, Inc. (MC) found widespread issues in the 40-year-old building that needed extensive repairs “in the near future.” The report found “major structural damage” to the concrete structural slab below the pool deck—since there is no adequate draining system—that affects “the structural integrity of the concrete at ground level.” There are also descriptions and photos of many cracks and splits of beams, columns, and walls.

Additionally, a letter signed by Jean Wodnicki, president of the board of directors for the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association, in April 2021 said that an estimated $15 million for repairs was required due to the significant deterioration of the property. Since the initial 2018 report by MC, the letter details an acceleration in concrete deterioration and the roof situation that has worsened.

Those reports are considered evidence of the board’s alleged negligence in the lawsuits being filed by residents. In a personal injury claim, plaintiffs must show that (1) the defendant had a duty of care to provide residents with a safe place to live, (2) the duty was breached because the defendant was aware of the issues and failed to take any action to repair them, (3) the defendant’s actions caused the plaintiffs’ injuries, and (4) the plaintiffs suffered damages.

There are two main types of personal injury claims residents of the collapsed complex can file: a premises liability lawsuit and a wrongful death lawsuit. While premises liability claims are filed when an injury occurs on a property due to harm or negligence, wrongful death claims are filed by surviving family members who lost a loved one due to another party’s harm or negligence.

The lawyers representing the plaintiffs say fairly compensating everyone would take $1 billion. However, approximately $50 million from insurance policies is only available, which might not even cover some residents for their losses.

If you are interested in filing a premises liability or wrongful death lawsuit in Tampa Bay, contact Paulsen Law Group today for a free case review.

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