(CNN) — A new class action lawsuit against the Champlain Towers South apartment association was filed in connection with last week’s deadly collapse in Surfside, Florida.
The lawsuit, filed Monday on behalf of Raysa Rodríguez, a resident who lives on the ninth floor of the building Champlain Towers South, as well as other residents in a similar situation, it establishes that the apartment association had a duty to maintain the building in safe conditions and in good working order.
“Despite the obvious duties required by Florida law, and this duty of care admitted by the Association Statement and other governing documents, the defendant, through his own reckless and negligent conduct, caused a catastrophic fatal collapse of the Champlain Towers South building, ”the complaint alleges.
By filing the complaint, Rodriguez seeks class action status to represent all the people who were affected by the tragedy and asks the court to help preserve any material so that all guilty can be held accountable.
The plaintiff is seeking unspecified money damages and a jury trial, according to the complaint. This is the third lawsuit that has been filed against the apartment association.
Calls from CNN to the Champlain Towers South condo association seeking comment have not been returned.
On Monday night, the attorney representing the condo association appeared live on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time.”
“The board is already in the process of hiring an engineer to also try to find out what happened, and they will be evaluating who is responsible,” said attorney Donna DiMaggio Berger.
They relate “the devastation” of the building
In the complaint, Rodríguez, who was asleep at the time of the collapse, recounts the devastation from shear and the frantic race against time to evacuate once she realized that part of the building had disappeared.
‘I looked to the left towards the north end of the building. A concrete column had traversed the hall from floor to ceiling. I looked at the elevators. The elevator shafts were exposed, the doors were missing. I knocked on the doors of several neighbors, I had no answer. I ran to the exit, opened the doors that lead to the outer staircase, and saw the devastation. Champlain beach collapsed, collapsed. I screamed in horror, ”Rodríguez said in the complaint.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendant failed to address the “significant structural damage” described in a structural field study report presented to the defendant in 2018 by Morabito Consultants.
The lawsuit further alleges that a variety of factors may have played a role in the collapse, which killed 11 people and left dozens missing.
The complaint says that “inappropriate material used during the construction of the building” could have resulted in the collapse, along with the weight of construction materials and equipment that were used to re-roof the building.
“If the Defendant and / or its contractors had properly tested, inspected and assessed the structural integrity of the building prior to commencing this work, it likely would not have occurred and would have become a contributing cause of the collapse,” the complaint states.
The building was in a “critical” condition
In an interview with CNN, one of Rodríguez’s attorneys, Adam Schwartzbaum, argued that the association knew the building was in “critical” condition for years and that the warning signs had been evident for more than a decade.
Schwartzbaum said his grandparents lived in Champlain for 30 years until they moved in about 10 years ago. He said his grandmother used to complain about water stains on her car in the garage, as if there was a leak. “She didn’t understand why there would be water in her car even though it was underground,” he said.
Referring to the 2018 report that identified cracked concrete and other damage, Schwartzbaum said: “Certainly, for at least three years, there was a large warning flag … sirens flashing, alerting the condo association of this danger.”
He said Rodriguez “recently” took a photograph included in the complaint that shows a crack in the concrete over his parking space in the condo garage. He said Rodríguez shared the photo with the association “after a giant piece of concrete landed behind his car … to try to warn them of this.”
“According to our research, there were many warning signs more than 10 years ago, maybe even longer. These are not things that happened a few years ago, “he said.
The lawsuit accuses the condo association of negligence and breach of contract for failing to “exercise reasonable care in managing, maintaining and repairing” the Champlain Towers South condo building. The “defendant knew or should have known that there was a significant and foreseeable risk of unreasonable harm to the plaintiff and class members and their property,” the lawsuit said.
The first lawsuit was filed last week
The first civil action after the building’s collapse was a lawsuit filed Thursday on behalf of Manuel Drezner, who lived in unit 1009 of the tower.
The attorneys representing the resident have begun the document subpoena process from the engineering firm that completed the 2018 field survey.
The lawyers said they intend to request documents from the apartment association related to the building’s integrity and other matters, according to Brad Sohn, a lawyer in the case.
Both discovery requests, a routine step in a civil lawsuit like this one, were detailed in documents filed with the Florida court where the class action lawsuit is taking place. They were not yet available through a public record. Sohn provided the presentation related to the engineering company to CNN.
Sohn said his firm has spoken with several other tower residents who have expressed interest in joining that lawsuit. Morabito Consultants, the engineering firm, is not a defendant in the lawsuit, which was brought against the condo association.
A copy of the subpoena included in the engineering firm’s submission requests “a complete copy of your entire file from start to finish”, including “all documents, electronic records, and communications that refer to, relate to, or refer to Champlain Towers South and Champlain Towers South Condominium Association, Inc ».
The attorneys say in the filing that they intend to cite similar documents from the city of Surfside, as well as from other companies in the area connected to the building, including contractors who studied humidity levels on the building’s roof.
CNN’s David Shortell contributed to this report.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism