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First lawsuit filed after partial building collapse in Surfside

Class action suit seeks over $5 million in damages

What is believed to be the first lawsuit brought against the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association following the partial building collapse was filed late Thursday night.
What is believed to be the first lawsuit brought against the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association following the partial building collapse was filed late Thursday night.

SURFSIDE, Fla. – What is believed to be the first lawsuit brought against the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association following the partial building collapse was filed late Thursday night.

The class action lawsuit was filed electronically at 11:29 p.m. on behalf of Manuel Drezner and “on behalf of all others similarly situated.”

The lawsuit, filed by the Brad Sohn Law Firm, seeks to compensate the victims of the horrific collapse that has killed at least three people.

[ALSO SEE: Loved ones name, show photos of those they say are missing]

The complaint alleges that the condominium association failed to “secure and safeguard the lives and property” of those who live at the building.

“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,” the lawsuit stated.

The complaint alleges that the collapse could have been prevented “through the exercise of ordinary care, safety measures and oversight.”

[ALSO SEE: Surfside condo attorney says it’s too early to tell what went wrong]

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett confirmed Thursday that roof work was being done at the building, which has started the mandatory 40-year recertification process. A concrete restoration project was also in the works.

“I am told it 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,” Surfside Town Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer said on Thursday.

A new high-rise building was also being constructed next door that some believe may have compromised the integrity of the building, however the cause of the collapse remains under investigation and officials say it will likely take months before we know the actual cause.

“The engineer has been working for many months to develop the specifications to work with the city,” Direktor confirmed to Local 10 News. “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.”

“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,” he added.

A total of 159 people remain unaccounted for Friday following the tragedy.

The lawsuit is seeking more than $5 million in damages.

“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. “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.”

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About the Authors:

Amanda Batchelor is the managing editor for Local10.com.

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."