Surfside Condo Official Mishandled Engineer’s Report, Gregg Schlesinger & Experts Say

A 2018 engineer’s report outlined “major structural damage” to a concrete slab and “abundant” deterioration of supporting garage columns at Champlain Towers South, but as reported by the Miami Herald, Surfside’s top building official ignored it.

Per Miami-Dade County’s building code, the official, Rosendo Prieto, was obligated to arrange a follow-up investigation after the initial engineer’s report noted the condo’s residents may be at risk of injury. Unfortunately, all Prieto did was tell the condo board that the building was in “very good shape,” according to the board meeting’s minutes.

Fort Lauderdale contractor and attorney Gregg Schlesinger pointed out the dangers of Prieto’s actions.

“I think when you see something like this, you should report it. It should be looked at,” Schlesinger told the Miami Herald. “When is something unsafe? It’s unsafe when someone knew or should have known of the potential of it collapsing, or deteriorating in such a state where there is a chance of it collapsing.”

Champlain Towers South had more than just a potential of collapsing: About half of the 12-story condo collapsed June 24, tragically killing almost 100 people. The Miami Herald reported that several structural engineers have said they suspect the collapse began after the pool deck caved into the parking garage. This structural failure purportedly undermined the foundation and triggered the collapse of the condo’s middle then oceanfront sections.

Still, Prieto claimed he was not aware of the engineer’s report. This statement conflicts with (a) his comment about how the condo was in “very good shape” at the board meeting and (b) public records that show Prieto commented, via email, on how the board meeting addressed structural issues even before the condo’s 40-year recertification. According to the Miami Herald, this 40-year recertification never took place. The engineer’s report estimated that Champlain Towers South needed $9 million in repairs, a cost so high that board members delayed the repairs until it was too late.

In total, half a dozen engineers and legal experts told the Miami Herald that the engineer’s report “should have taken several additional steps to address the fundamental safety issue” present at Champlain Towers South. It is important to note that the “fundamental safety issue” is actually an amalgamation of several different issues, a few of which include:

  • A lack of proper sloping and waterproofing;
  • A major error with the concrete slab beneath the pool deck area; and
  • Abundant cracking and spalling in concrete garage columns due to the deterioration of reinforced steel rods (rebar).

As Schlesinger told the Miami Herald, although the building industry has many gray areas and “overlapping powers” among contractors, architects, engineers, and inspectors, the truth of the matter is that when things go wrong, “they’re all responsible.”

Advocating for Victims of the Surfside Condo Collapse

Our attorneys at Schlesinger Law Offices, P.A. will not allow those responsible for the devastating collapse of Champlain Towers South to evade accountability. If you have been directly affected by the condo board’s negligence, you have rights. To find out how we can help you, contact our Fort Lauderdale trial law firm online or at (954) 467-8800 today.

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