Champlain Towers Condo South Building Collapse

At about 1 a.m. on June 24, a wing of the Champlain Tower South Condo Complex in Surfside, Fla., collapsed. As of June 25, four people died in the collapse and more than 159 people who were in the building at the time of collapse remain missing as rescue crews continue to work the scene. Fifty-five units were affected by the collapse.

Construction completed on the building, located at 8777 Collins Ave., about 15 miles north of Miami, Fla., in 1981. Miami-Dade County requires that buildings 40 years or older undergo Recertification, including, “have the building inspected for the purpose of determining the general structural condition of the building and the general condition of its electrical systems.” With Recertification, a “written Recertification Report to the Building Official, prepared by a Florida registered professional engineer or architect, certifying each building or structure is structurally and electrically safe for the specified use for continued occupancy” must be submitted. Given the building’s age, it was approaching the 40-year Recertification deadline and it is reported that the Champlain Towers homeowners association had hired an engineer to assist with the recertification process.

Concerns with the structural soundness of the building have been raised and some have provided thoughts on what would cause the building’s collapse:

  • Reports cite an April 2020 study by Florida International University professor Shimon Wdowinski and University of Padua professor Simone Fiaschi. The study found that the area where the building collapsed showed signs of “land subsidence” or settling or sinking of the Earth’s surface. FIU issued a press release about the building’s collapse quoting professor Wdowinski, “When we measure subsidence or when we see movement of the buildings, it’s worth checking why it happens. We cannot say what is the reason for that from the satellite images but we can say there was movement here.”
  • Atorod Azizinamini, chair of the FIU College of Engineering and Computing’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, said a building collapse such as this is rare and usually involves multiple factors that create the perfect storm and that “usually these collapses are a result of some mistakes, maybe some negligence or some unusual events that might take place.”
  • Another possible reason for the building’s collapse is concrete spalling  engineer Greg Batista suggested. He told the Miami Herald when salt water seeps into porous concrete, it causes the reinforced steel rods, or rebar in the support beams, to rust and expand. As a result, the expansion breaks up the concrete which weakens the beams. “If you have one column subjected to spalling, the No. 1 suspect here, it could fail. That one beam could bring down the whole building like a domino effect.”

A resident sued the condo association in 2015 alleging poor maintenance of the building allowed water to damage her unit by entering cracks through the outside wall. According to reports, her lawyer said in an email that the water issue was related to the “structural integrity and serious despair” of the building.

Other residents voiced concerns about leaks and mold and even building trembles.

“Our deepest condolences go out to everyone impacted by the Champlain Towers building complex,” said Motley Rice lawyer Lance Oliver. “The unthinkable changed hundreds of lives in an instant in the middle of the night. As officials and emergency crews continue to work the scene, questions about the true cause of the building’s collapse remain unanswered. We hope the residents and their families get the answers they deserve.”

Motley Rice attorneys have experience litigating complex matters and are able to dedicate the time and resources comprehensive investigations require. For more information, email or call Motley Rice lawyers Lance Oliver or David Hoyle by email or by calling 1-800-768-4026.