A lawsuit has been filed for the victims of the Champlain Towers South collapse, seeking $5 million in damages for the tragic event. The beachfront condominium, which collapsed early morning Thursday, needed repairs, according to the Defendant’s attorney, Ken Direktor, though the exact reason for “one of the most breathtakingly frightening tragedies in the history of South Florida,” is still being investigated.
The Brad Sohn Law Firm filed the class action lawsuit at 11:29 p.m. Thursday on behalf of Manuel Drezner and “all others similarly situated.” The action “seeks to compensate the victims of this unfathomable loss,” so that those affected can focus on healing, rather than rebuilding the material possessions destroyed. How much each individual victim will receive is still unclear, but the law firm is currently suing the defendants for $5 million.
There are 159 people still unaccounted for, and authorities are searching the wreckage of Champlain Towers South in an attempt to locate those residents not fortunate enough to escape. NBC News reported Friday morning that investigators have confirmed four people were killed and 11 more were injured by the collapse. Dozens of others are estimated to be trapped in the wreckage, and rescuers continued their search through the night.
The lawsuit, which is seeking $5 million in damages for those affected by the collapse, alleges that the condominium association failed to “secure and safeguard the lives and property” of the residents of Champlain Towers South and its surrounding properties. “According to public statements made by Defendant’s attorney Ken Direktor, ‘repair needs had been identified with regard to certain structural issues but had not been implemented; one of the most breathtakingly frightening tragedies in the history of South Florida followed,” according to the lawsuit.
The court filing claims that the condominium in Surfside, Florida, did not adequately protect its residents and visitors to the building, by neglecting necessary repairs despite structural issues, and failed to prevent the “catastrophic” collapse of Champlain Towers South. The lawsuit also asserts that “the exercise of ordinary care, safety measures, and oversite” could have prevented the tragedy.
It was confirmed Thursday that roof work was being done at the building around the time of the collapse, though investigators aren’t sure whether those repairs are connected to the structural failure of the building. Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett claimed that the roof work was part of the mandatory 40-year recertification process and that a concrete restoration project was also in the works.
Surfside Town Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer said on Thursday that the 40-year certification “was proceeding fine and they were redoing the roof and the building inspector had been out there recently. I was told it was even yesterday.” The building, which was built in 1981, was going through its recertification process, including mandatory inspections required by Florida every 40 years. Speculation points to structural infidelities, though the exact manner of those issues is not specific and being investigated by officials.
According to a study conducted in 2020, the Champlain Towers South had been sinking at an alarming rate since the 1990s. Shimon Wdowinski, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environment, who conducted the study, admitted that “I looked at it this morning and said, ‘Oh my god.’ We did detect that.”
It’s also believed that a new high-rise building that was being constructed next door caused the collapse and that the construction compromised the Champlain Towers South. That avenue is being investigated by officials, who say it will take months before the cause is revealed.
Ken Direktor, who represents the defendants in the lawsuit, claimed that “the engineer has been working for many months to develop the specifications to work with the city. What was in its infancy was the actual construction, which had not started with the sole exception that they had already begun on the roof.”
He continued, adding that “I don’t think we’re anywhere near a point where we can develop an understanding of what caused this or find any correlation between the 40-year certification and what happened to this building.”
Brad Sohn, who is representing the plaintiffs in the class-action suit, made a statement Thursday, saying that “As a lawyer, I can’t fix what is irreparable. But what I can do is fight to immediately fully compensate these victims so that they can focus all of their energy on healing as best they can.”
He continued, saying that “our investigation continues, but we strongly believe this was preventable. A lawsuit is necessary to force all parties to preserve documents and records regarding this building and ensure a thorough investigation into this tragedy. We are committed to compensating these vulnerable families, whether they have lost a loved one, lost the place they called home or suffered injury.”