The tragedy that struck a Florida condominium building on June 24 continues. The condo association faces a class-action lawsuit for allegedly failing to repair known damage to the building. The Champlain Towers South complex in Surfside, Fla., near Miami, experienced a partial collapse, which has killed at least 10 people so far, while 150 people are still missing.
The 12-story building was four decades old. The mayor of Surfside, Charles Burkett, said that he's having city administrators pull all of the records from Champlain Towers South for examination and publication online. Search and rescue operations are ongoing.
40-year recertification process was underway
Recently, the condo building had been in the midst of a recertification process that takes place every 40 years, said Donna Berger, a lawyer representing the condo association. Berger has complained about the timing of the lawsuit and said that it's “despicable” that it was filed less than 24 hours after the tragedy.
Berger says that the board for the condo association should be able to focus on rescue efforts for those still in the rubble, not on a lawsuit. She mentioned that the vice president for the association was also believed to be missing when the group met on June 25.
According to Berger, the association was in the process of evaluating bids for some repair work. She also speculated that the issue causing the collapse might have been a “sub-surface issue.”
Lawsuit against condo association
Less than 24 hours after the partial collapse of the Surfside condo building, a group of owners filed a class-action lawsuit against the condo association that runs Champlain Towers. The suit alleges that the association failed to address known structural problems in the building to protect residents and visitors.
Brad Sohn Law Firm filed the complaint on behalf of owners including Manuel Drezner. The plaintiffs are seeking over $5 million in damages for the tragedy. Sohn said that he expects to also represent those who rent units in the condo. There will likely be lawsuits related to injuries suffered due to the collapse.
According to NPR, the lawsuit refers to public comments by Kenneth Direktor, a representative for the condo association, in which he mentioned repair needs that had been identified.
Mayor says sister building might have similar problems
According to Surfside’s mayor, the sister building to the one that collapsed, Champlain Towers North, could have similar structural issues. Mayor Burkett told CNN on June 28 that the two buildings have a lot of similarities, including being handled by the same contractor and built around the same period.
Burkett said that he wouldn't sleep in the Champlain Towers North building due to safety concerns. However, he said a third building named Champlain likely doesn’t pose any danger since it was built later than the other two. So far, no mandatory evacuation order has been issued for the sister building.
According to email documents, the Champlain Towers South might have had structural damage including cracked concrete discovered in 2018. However, town meeting minutes gave the overall assessment of the building that it was in “very good shape,” according to CNN.