The class action lawsuit against the collapse Champlain Tours South will head to trial in March 2023, just as the building’s condominium association has shifted blame for the disaster in a new court case.
Surviving family members and residents of the tragedy, which killed 98 people last June, have filed a complaint class action last November, alleging Champlain Sud Condo Association neglected his duties to protect and adequately renovate the building.
The judge in charge of the case, Michael hanzman of Miami-Dade Circuit Court, wanted the trial to begin in July 2022. “Justice delayed is denied,” he said at a hearing on Wednesday.
After lawyers for the defendants protested, saying experts needed more time to perform tests to determine the cause of the partial collapse, Hanzman relented and set a trial date for March 2023.
The decision comes days after the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association filed a 214-page counterclaim, arguing that the fault lies with all of the other defendants named in the class action, including the professionals he hired and the developer of the Eight Seven Park condo next door.
The association claims that it performed its duties correctly, having hired engineers, Morabito Advisors, in 2018, ahead of the safety inspection of the building at 40.
“No member of the board of directors was a professional engineer, general contractor or otherwise qualified to lead or oversee the 40-year recertification process without professional assistance,” the counterclaim states.
Morabito’s report, which was made public shortly after the collapse, warned of “major errors” in Champlain’s structure, adding that the proposed renovations would be “extremely expensive” and “a major disruption for the occupants of the condo.” . Morabito has denied responsibility for the tragedy in his court response.
But the association alleges that the report did not go far enough, saying it did not warn that “one of the problems identified threatened the lives or the safety of the occupants and visitors of the condominium”. The association is claiming $ 750,000 in damages and legal fees.
In a separate Filing of 112 pages, the counterclaim also targeted the law firm representing the association, Becker & Poliakoff, claiming that the lawyers had not acted adequately and had not investigated further into Morabito’s findings.
After the publication of the report, a resident concerned, Susana Rodriguez, emailed Becker & Poliakoff attorneys asking for advice. Lawyers dismissed his concerns, saying Rodriguez’s letter “did not really ask a question” and that “no response can be provided when no questions have been asked” in their response, according to the counterclaim.
Becker & Poliakoff denies any responsibility. “Becker mourns those who have been lost and stands behind his professional advice. Becker did what law firms are supposed to do – he provided advice on legal matters to the condominium association board of directors. Its representation did not include advice on property management, structural engineering or technical matters related to construction or maintenance, ”the company said in a statement.
The Champlain building was mired in internal disputes over the condo’s decay. In 2015, a resident, Mathilde Zaidenweber, sued the condominium association for $ 15,000 for water damage to its unit, according to court records. A judge dismissed the lawsuit three years later.
The renovations had started just before the crash, after years of delays. The cost of repairs climbed to over $ 15 million.
The counterclaim also reiterated allegations made in the November filing, claiming construction of the neighboring luxury condo contributed to the collapse, and detailing the developer’s conduct, David Martin‘s Earth and its engineers, NV5 and DeSimone Consulting Engineers. Terra has denied any responsibility.
Update: The article has been updated to include Declaration of Becker and Poliakoff.
Julia Echikson can be reached at [email protected].