By Osborne & Francis
October 25, 2023

Surfside Building Tragedy: Why did the Champlain Towers Condo Collapse?

Updated: July 16, 2021: Official death toll now at 97

Chaplain towers, Surfside Miami condo collapse.

Around South Florida, it seems everybody knows someone who knows someone affected by the Champlain condo collapse. The collapse has sent a chilling ripple throughout Surfside and the local community, and the questions below are often overheard:

1. What will happen next?

Structural analysis must be performed by certified engineers to pinpoint the exact cause(s) of the collapse. This will be an extensive process that could take months to complete.

2. What do we intend to do about it?

The attorneys at Osborne & Francis will be investigating the matter to help determine liability and suggest potential recovery options for victims and their families. We are currently taking inquiries and providing guidance regarding the incident.

3. Will anything "positive" come from this horrific event?

The collapse has already sparked awareness of safety issues in multi-family residential communities in Florida and across the nation. For instance, the Crestview towers in North Miami Beach have been evacuated and a full structural assessment ordered for the property. Even as far as California, condo residents are now questioning the structural integrity of the places they live in.

What Factors May Have Led to the Miami Condo Collapse?

The building collapse happened at around 1:03 am on Thursday, June 24, at a time when most residents were asleep. Today, the official death toll has reached 97.

In any premises liability case like this one, determining liability can be particularly challenging. Early reports indicate that there could potentially be various factors that may have contributed to the building's collapse.

Building Location

First, the location and characteristics of the land where the condo was built may be at play. For instance, salt water from the ocean has been known to cause wear on balconies of high-rise buildings like the Champlain Towers.

There is also speculation that the condo may have already been sinking well before the collapse happened. According to a researcher at Florida International University, the condo building was sinking at a rate of about 2 millimeters a year in the 1990s. Again, such data is not meant to suggest certainty about the cause of the collapse at this point.

Ongoing Construction Nearby

In addition, there are reports of ongoing construction adjacent to the building. It is possible that there may have been some shaking of the building as workers were driving pylons in. If so, there is potential that the foundation was affected.Experts caution that it is still too early to say what the definitive cause is. It will take months to fully sort out the actual cause of the collapse. However, understanding these factors could ultimately help reform local building standards and inspection processes.

A Highly Unusual Event

The Collins Ave. building collapse has been marked as highly unusual and unexpected for the area. Perhaps the only recent significant structural collapse that Florida residents may be familiar with is the pedestrian bridge incident at Florida International University in 2018. The bridge collapse, which killed six people, is being linked with structural cracking.

Unlike bridges, however, which are subject to inspection procedures every two years, there is no set process in Miami-Dade County for residential buildings, which are inspected at far fewer intervals. Specifically, they only go through a recertification process every 40 years.

In the meantime, buildings can undergo “nondestructive testing” where engineers identify potential problems and conduct different diagnostic tests. However, these procedures are not standardized for condo buildings like Champlain Towers.Even still, the Champlain Towers was billed as a “luxury property” and was in seemingly good shape and relatively new at the time of the collapse. While there is some speculation that structural issues may be involved, Intense investigation will be needed in the upcoming months to determine exactly what went wrong. It might even be the case that a combination of elements were at play.

We Are Here for Our Community

Not an employee or member of Osborne & Francis Law Firm.
Not an employee or member of Osborne & Francis Law Firm

This incident has rocked our entire community, and our hearts here at Osborne & Francis go out to the victims, those affected, and their families and loved ones. While such collapse events are rare, the recent event highlights a potential need to reform residential building codes and safety standards or such a disaster could happen again.If you have any questions at all or need to speak with a legal professional for counseling or advice, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at (561) 293-2600. As Florida residents ourselves we place top priority on the safety and well-being of our neighbors.

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