Champlain Towers South engineering firm failed to keep occupants safe, lawsuit alleges

Champlain Towers South engineering firm failed to keep occupants safe, lawsuit alleges

A family suing the Champlain Towers South condo association names the engineering firm that performed a 2018 structural analysis of the building as a defendant, arguing the firm should have more thoroughly examined the building’s stability.

Maryland-based Morabito Consultants should have done so by “inspecting the sub-surface foundation,” the lawsuit says.

A large portion of the condo tower crumbled to the ground last week, killing at least 18 people and leaving 147 unaccounted for.

Attorneys for the family of Harold Rosenberg, who remains unaccounted for, filed the suit Wednesday, alleging that after Morabito completed the 2018 structural analysis it should have submitted a written report to the town of Surfside certifying that the condo was structurally safe.

“The Morabito report did not certify that the building ‘is structurally and electrically safe … for continued occupancy,'” the suit states.

“Instead, in an apparent attempt to wash away its failures in the wake of this tragedy, Defendant Morabito submitted this report … approximately 16 hours after the Champlain Towers South building collapsed,” the suit states, referring to a document that firm president Frank Morabito filed with Surfside on June 24, the day the building fell.

Morabito says it offered detailed recommendations

Morabito, an engineer, produced the 2018 report for the building’s condo association as part of Champlain Towers South’s 40-year recertification effort — a stringent process for updates and improvements enacted after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

“Morabito Consultants provided the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association with detailed findings and recommendations nearly three years ago regarding the structural repairs that were needed on the building to ensure the safety of the residents and the public,” a Morabito spokesman said in a statement to CNN.

It continued, “Morabito Consultants did their job, just as they have done for nearly four decades — providing expert structural engineering counsel and services. And they will continue to work with the investigating authorities to understand why this structure failed, so that such a catastrophic event can never happen again.”

In the survey widely reported by media, Morabito Consultants noted “abundant cracking and spalling” in concrete columns and walls, “exposed, deteriorating rebar” and failing waterproofing beneath the pool deck and entrance drive that was causing “major structural damage.”

Morabito Consultants has said previously it “provided the condominium association with an estimate of the probable costs to make the extensive and necessary repairs. Among other things, our report detailed significant cracks and breaks in the concrete, which required repairs to ensure the safety of the residents and the public.”

Attorneys want to inspect rubble before it’s cleared

Rosenberg’s family is also suing SD Architects, a firm the suit alleges failed to ensure appropriate corrective measures were taken in the building after it was retained to create plans for remediation work this year.

In an emergency motion filed Wednesday, attorneys asked for permission to conduct on-site inspections when search-and-rescue efforts end but before the site is cleared.

Even though government entities are gathering evidence, attorney Robert Mongeluzzi said, families don’t know what is being collected and deserve the opportunity to have their own observers collect images with a drone.

“The key in building collapse cases is the evidence that is at the site,” the lawyer said at a Wednesday news conference. “The families have not had a voice or a set of eyes in that process at all.”

Rosenberg’s three adult children allege in the lawsuit that the condo association failed to make structural repairs on the building due to a desire to save money.

Donna DiMaggio Berger, an attorney representing the condo association, didn’t think the building was in a state of disrepair before its collapse, she told CNN on Monday. The board was hiring an engineer to evaluate who is responsible, she said.

Since last week’s disaster, several lawsuits have been filed. At least one seeks class-action status.