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Contractors to Pay in Collapse Settlement

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

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DORAL, FL—A college in Florida has reached a $33.5 million settlement with the contractors and subcontractors involved in the construction of a parking garage that collapsed more than two years ago, killing four.

The settlement, reached May 6, will help Miami-Dade College move beyond the tragedy and break ground on a new structure, officials say.

Miami Dade Fire Rescue
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue

Four workers were killed when a nearly completed parking garage in Doral, FL, toppled level by level on Oct. 10, 2012. OSHA has issued safety violations to five companies involved in the project.

The five-story, nearly completed $22.5 million parking garage in Doral, FL, toppled level by level Oct. 10, 2012.

Four workers perished in the collapse: Robert Budhoo, 53; Jose Calderon, 60; Carlos Hurtado de Mendoza, 48; and Samuel Perez, 53. At least nine others were injured.

Investigators found that a support column had not been reinforced and a crane struck the column, helping to precipitate the collapse. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued $38,000 in fines against five contractors in April 2013, saying the companies failed to secure and inspect the columns.

The families of the four deceased workers and the injured previously reached an undisclosed settlement in lawsuits filed against the general contractor and subcontractors, according to reports.

To Repair or Replace

In 2013, the college filed a lawsuit against the general contractor Ajax Building Corp., its insurer and six subcontractors, claiming that the damaged portion of the garage was unsafe, unusable and “not repairable to contractual tolerances or aesthetics,” according to Engineering News Record.

In lieu of litigation, the parties participated in mediation. There, they primarily disputed whether the 520,000-square-foot structure could be repaired sufficiently or if it had to be replaced.

Ultimately, the college successfully argued for replacement.

Settlement Breakdown

Per the settlement, the college will receive $33.5 million in total: $26.5 million plus $7 million from the previous construction contracts, which are being waived.

Miami-Dade College

The partially collapsed structure will be replaced with a new facility, officials say.

The construction companies who will pay include Ajax Building Corp., Coreslab Structures and Solar Erectors, along with their insurers. Coreslab and Solar Erectors supplied and erected the garage’s precast concrete components.

The project’s builder’s risk insurance will pay the largest settlement sum: nearly $10.3 million, according to ENR.

Satisfied with Settlement

In a statement, a college spokesman said the institution was satisfied with the outcome.

“You can’t be pleased with this settlement,” spokesman Juan Mendieta said, “because lives were lost, and it should’ve never happened in the first place.”

"We are, however, satisfied with the settlement because of the good work of the legal team ensuring we could completely dismantle the damaged garage structure.”

 “We will now construct a brand-new, safe, garage facility,” he said.

Fire Rescue
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue

“You can’t be pleased with this settlement,” said Miami-Dade College spokesman Juan Mendieta, “because lives were lost, and it should’ve never happened in the first place.”

The school has hired Haskell Construction, of Jacksonville, FL, to direct the 18-month-long project.

The school’s 6,000 commuter students will be glad when a new garage is ready, as they’ve been forced to park in the grass along a busy thoroughfare up to a mile away for years, according to the Miami Herald.

Avoiding Litigation

Michael Jay Rune II, the attorney for Ajax, told media outlets that the settlement outcome was “good for everyone involved, because it was a potentially difficult and drawn-out litigation.”

The case potentially involved more than 20 parties, which would have resulted in astronomical litigation costs, according to ENR.

“That’s why you had a buy-in to do a fairly large monetary settlement,” Rune said.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Concrete; Fatalities; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; Laws and litigation; Lawsuits; North America; Parking Garages

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