Miami Building Collapse Lawsuit

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June 24, 2021

by Brian Eckert

A high-rise condo building partially collapsed near Miami Beach on Thursday afternoon, killing at least one person and leaving many more injured and missing. As rescue crews continue to comb through the wreckage, engineers have started to investigate the cause of the collapse.

Milberg attorneys are also looking into the collapse and would like to hear from anyone who lives at the Champlain Towers South Condo in Surfside and is affected by this tragedy.

Structural Engineer Hired to Probe Collapse

John Pistorino, a Miami-based structural engineer who previously evaluated the Florida International University (FIU) pedestrian bridge collapse in 2018, has been hired to investigate the Surfside condo collapse, according to USA Today. Pistorino helped write Florida’s building codes and has also written guidelines for inspecting buildings that are at least 40 years old. The Champlain Towers South was built in 1981.

“This should not have happened,” said the structural engineer investigating the condo collapse.

While Pistorino would not speculate on the cause of the collapse, he did comment on what he called a “tell-tale” video showing the center section of the building collapsing and pancaking. “This should not have happened,” said Pistorino.

Pistorino added that oceanfront buildings are susceptible to saltwater that can damage a building’s structural integrity. USA Today also reports that a 2020 study conducted by a professor in FIU’s Department of Earth and Environment showed the condo, which was constructed on reclaimed wetlands, sinking at a rate of around 2 millimeters a year in the 1990s.

Miami-Dade County, where the Champlain Towers South is located, requires inspections for buildings when they hit the 40-year mark, and then every subsequent ten years. These inspections were introduced following the collapse of a Miami building in 1974. Surfside has its own requirements that buildings undergo electrical and structural inspections every 40 years. The condo was undergoing its scheduled evaluation at the time of the collapse.

Who Could Be Held Liable?

While still too early to draw conclusions about what caused the condo collapse, it’s safe to say, at the very least, that the original builders of the condominium are probably off the hook. Construction standards today are much more stringent than in the 1980s. Florida revises its building codes every three years, but buildings generally do not have to be updated to meet the new regulations, unless renovation, major repair, or alterations of or additions to the building are performed.

Maintenance, however, is an ongoing process, and building codes aren’t the only factor in assessing safety. Common elements and exterior defects, including foundation problems, are typically the responsibility of the condo association; condo owners are usually only responsible for maintaining the interior of their units. However, if the condo association paid for repairs, and the repairs were performed improperly, fault could ultimately lie with the general contractor or subcontractors.

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If you have information about what may have caused the condo collapse, please contact our attorneys.