At least four people were killed after a Miami-area condo collapsed, leaving more than 150 people missing. A $5 million class-action lawsuit has been filed against the building’s condo association.
The suit claims that the association failed to “secure and safeguard” its residents.
ABC affiliate WPLG first reported the lawsuit filed on Thursday by the Brad Sohn Law Firm just a few hours after the tragedy took place.
According to the complaint obtained by PEOPLE, Manuel Drezner – who lives in and owns a unit in the collapsed tower – is listed as the plaintiff on his own behalf and behalf of “all others similarly situated.
The group is seeking $5 million in damages and alleges the condominium association failed to inform both visitors and residents about the lack of safety measures and “negligence” by not taking the available steps to prevent the collapse from occurring.
“Defendant knew, or reasonably should have known, of the importance of safeguarding Plaintiff’s and the Class’s lives and property and of the foreseeable consequences that would occur if it failed to do so, including, specifically, the loss of life and use of property that Plaintiff and the Class would suffer if Defendant failed to take adequate precautions,” the lawsuit says.
The suit also claims that the collapse could have been prevented through “the exercise of ordinary care, safety measures, and oversight.” It also references a public statement from the association’s attorney Ken Direktor, who stated that “repair needs had been identified” within certain structural issues in the building.
“In the early hours of Thursday morning, an unspeakable horror rocked the close-knit community of Surfside, Florida. Shortly thereafter, Sohn Law was engaged by the Drezner family. 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,” Sohn said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.
“Our investigation continues, but we strongly believe this was preventable,” the statement continued. “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.”
Direktor told WPLG that engineers had been working “for many months” to develop building specifications that would meet the city’s requirements and that Champlain Towers South was undergoing a standard recertification process involving electrical and structural inspections when it fell.
“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,” Direktor said. “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.”
Evidently, Shimon Wdowinski, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environment at Florida International University, “detected” the collapse of the 12-story high rise in his 2020 study, which showed the building was sinking 2 millimeters a year in the 1990s. However, he did note the rate could have slowed or accelerated in the years since.
“I looked at it this morning and said, ‘Oh my god.’ We did detect that,” he told the outlet. “It was a byproduct of analyzing the data. We saw this building had some kind of unusual movement.”
Four people have been confirmed dead, 120 have been accounted for, and 159 remain missing.