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Devastating Miami Condo Collapse Teaches a Lesson About Condo Association’s Duty of Care

Jun 28 | 2021  by

As people still process the devastating news of the partially collapsed condominium in Surfside, Florida, our thoughts and prayers go out to all families and victims involved. But many have stopped to ask how this could happen, and who is responsible. Though there is plenty of blame to go around in situations like this, people often place blame on the condominium association. This article will evaluate whether the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association breached its duty of care to residents.

In general, most condominium associations have exclusive control over the common areas of the condominium, such as the pool area and the parking lot. Courts in Michigan have addressed the liability of a condominium association to individual unit co-owners that are injured in these places. Since the association has exclusive control over the common areas, courts have said that the association has the same duty as a landlord does to protect individual co-owners who come onto the premises. But just because there is a duty doesn’t mean that an association necessarily breached that duty of care. It needs to be shown that the condominium association did not conform its conduct to that of a reasonable association under similar circumstances. 

Included as part of documents released by the City of Surfside was a structural engineering report by Morabito Consultants, Inc. created in 2018 for the Champlain Towers South Condominium Complex. In that report, Morabito confirmed there was major structural damage to the pool deck and entrance drive areas of the condominium caused by failed waterproofing on the concrete structural slab below the areas, which was supposed to be sloped but was flat, not allowing water to run off correctly. Morabito said that failure to replace it in the near future would cause “the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially.” They also noted that this would be an extremely expensive fix creating a major disturbance for occupants of the building.

It remains to be seen whether this was one of the main causes of the collapse, but this report could subject the condominium to liability. Considering three years ago the association was put on notice that a repair needed to be made immediately, which they failed to do in a timely manner.

If Champlain Towers South Condominium Complex was located in Michigan, the association may or may not have breached its duty of care under Michigan law to protect individual unit co-owners from injury by failing to repair this sizeable structural issue immediately after receiving notice in 2018, in what appears to be the common area of the condominium, depending on whether a court decides that their conduct was reasonable under similar circumstances.  

As more information rolls out, we will continue to see who is responsible for this tragedy and how we can ensure things like this never happen again. Everyone has an interest in ensuring that condominiums remain safe and structurally sound for the peace of mind of all condominium co-owners.

Condo associations should contact an experienced attorney for any questions regarding safety in the common areas, and how to ensure they build sufficient protocols into their documents to ensure repairs and known defects are dealt with in a timely manner. Contact Attorney Robert Pollock with Fausone & Grysko, PLC at (248) 912-3212 to discuss how you can protect your co-owners and prevent situations like this from happening in your condominium.