The structural engineering firm overseeing restoration of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Fla., prior to its deadly 2021 collapse has agreed to a tentative legal settlement with survivors of the 98 residents killed in the disaster.
Terms of the agreement between Morabito Consultants and the plaintiffs were not announced.
At the time of the collapse, the Maryland-based firm had just begun a restoration plan based on its 2018 inspection that had revealed widespread deterioration in the 40-year-old building’s reinforced concrete structural elements. Deeming the building safe to remain occupied, the firm warned the condominium association that without timely repairs, the concrete problems would “expand exponentially."
The firm’s $9-million repair cost estimate nearly doubled as association leaders and residents debated whether to move forward with the plan.
In a statement, Morabito Consultants defended its work as having been performed consistent with the highest industry standards. While the firm denied liability for the building’s collapse, “we also firmly believe that the families who have suffered from this tragedy deserve compensation so that they may focus on healing. We therefore applaud the settlement reached by our insurers to resolve these difficult issues fairly and expeditiously.”
The settlement comes as Florida’s legislature considers proposals mandating statewide minimum structural recertification inspections and post-occupancy whole building safety inspections. Separate measures in the state’s House and Senate incorporate recommendations developed by a coalition of Florida building industry professional groups would require a two-phase building recertification process similar to those already in place in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
Allen Douglas, executive director of the Florida Engineering Society and American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida, says that although differences in the two bills must be reconciled, “periodic inspection of multi-family units enjoys strong support among voters statewide", adding that "I feel that we’ll get something” before the legislature adjourns on March 11.