2015 Complaints at Collapsed Surfside Building 'May Have Fallen on Deaf Ears': Attorney

The lawyer involved in a 2015 lawsuit against the collapsed building in Surfside, Florida said on Friday that repair requests from the building's residents "may have fallen on deaf ears."

While speaking with Newsweek, attorney Daniel Wagner, said, "my experience with this building is that it seems that a lot of the structural components in 2015 were corroded, which has been brought to the attention of the board and management but may have fallen on deaf ears."

Wagner continued, "Even as recent as April 2021, significant corrosion of the steel, expansion and cracking of the concrete and breaking of the stucco was observed and the board of the directors was notified accordingly by the residents."

In 2015, Wagner represented a resident of Champlain Towers South, who alleged an outer wall of her residence was not properly maintained by the building and she had water coming through her outer wall.

The lawsuit alleged the owners of the building "failed to repair or negligently repaired the common elements and the outside walls of the building."

While speaking with Newsweek, Wagner said it does not seem like the building took any "corrective action" to fix the issues in the woman's unit "because the corrosion continued."

Wagner also stated his client from 2015 recently provided him with pictures of her unit at the building, which showed "exposed stucco that was broken off showing the cracked concrete within and the rebar completely corroded through."

"They may have patched it up but it doesn't seem like they took any corrective action to further look into what was seemingly a problem within the building," Wagner said. "You have to remember that this is a building that is on the beach. So, any building or structure that is going to be near the ocean is obviously going to corrode due to the salt, air, wind and weather, much faster than other buildings that might be more inland."

Officials have yet to find a definitive cause of the building's collapse on Thursday, and it is unclear if Wagner's litigation had any connection to the collapse.

"We can only speculate as to the structural integrity of the building and are waiting for the investigation to conclude to support our legal theories," Wagner said. "Regular inspections and maintenance of a building's structural components are necessary. It's not just for those areas to ensure the building looks appealing, but let's be clear, we're only speculating at this time as it relates to Champlain."

In addition to the 2015 lawsuit, Surfside Town Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer told the Miami Herald on Friday some of the building's residents expressed concern over a water leak from the second-floor pool deck to the basement parking garage.

On Thursday, a portion of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida collapsed. Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said on Friday morning the number of reported deaths had risen from one to four while those unaccounted for increased to 159.

The Miami-Dade Medical Examiner's office identified the first victim that died in the collapse as 54-year-old Stacie Fang.

"Unfortunately this has been a tragic night," Cava said.

Surfside Building Collapse
The wreckage of a partially collapsed building in Surfside north of Miami Beach, Florida on Friday. Four people are now known to have died in the collapse of an oceanfront apartment building near Miami Beach, officials said Friday, while the number of unaccounted for has risen to 159—fueling fears of a much higher death toll Gianrigo Marletta/Getty