In the wake of the Miami-area condo collapse that killed at least four people and left more than 150 missing, a $5 million class action lawsuit has been filed against the building's condo association, alleging it failed to "secure and safeguard" its residents.
The suit, which was first reported by ABC affiliate WPLG, was filed Thursday night by the Brad Sohn Law Firm, just hours after Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida collapsed around 1:30 a.m.
Manuel Drezner - who lives in and owns a unit in the collapsed tower - is listed as the plaintiff on his own behalf, and on the behalf of "all others similarly situated," according to the complaint, which was obtained by PEOPLE.
The class is seeking $5 million in damages, and accuses Champlain Towers South Condominium Association, Inc. of failing to tell visitors and residents about the lack of safety measures in place, and of "negligence" in failing to take available steps to prevent the collapse.
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"Defendant knew, or reasonably should have known, of the importance of safeguarding Plaintiff's and the Class's lives and property and of the foreseeable consequences that would occur if it failed to do so, including, specifically, the loss of life and use of property that Plaintiff and the Class would suffer if Defendant failed to take adequate precautions," the lawsuit says.
It alleges that the collapse could have been prevented through "the exercise of ordinary care, safety measures, and oversight," and cites a public statement from the association's attorney Ken Direktor, in which he said that "repair needs had been identified" within certain structural issues in the building. Direktor did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
"In the early hours of Thursday morning, an unspeakable horror rocked the close-knit community of Surfside, Florida. Shortly thereafter, Sohn Law was engaged by the Drezner family. As a lawyer, I can't fix what is irreparable. But what I can do is fight to immediately fully compensate these victims so that they can focus all of their energy on healing as best they can," Sohn said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.
"Our investigation continues, but we strongly believe this was preventable," the statement continued. "A lawsuit is necessary to force all parties to preserve documents and records regarding this building and ensure a thorough investigation into this tragedy. We are committed to compensating these vulnerable families, whether they have lost a loved one, lost the place they called home, or suffered injury."
Direktor previously told WPLG that engineers had been working "for many months" to develop building specifications that would work with the city's requirements. Champlain Towers South was reportedly undergoing a standard recertification process, involving electrical and structural inspections, when it collapsed.
"What was in its infancy was the actual construction, which had not started with the sole exception that they had already begun on the roof," Direktor said. "I don't think we're anywhere near a point where we can develop an understanding of what caused this or find any correlation between the 40-year certification and what happened to this building."
Shimon Wdowinski, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environment at Florida International University, said his 2020 study of the site "detected" the collapse of the 12-story high-rise, USA Today reported. Wdowinski said the study indicated the building was sinking 2 millimeters a year in the 1990s, noting, however, there was rate could have slowed or accelerated in the years since.
"I looked at it this morning and said, 'Oh my god.' We did detect that," he told the outlet. "It was a byproduct of analyzing the data. We saw this building had some kind of unusual movement."
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Friday morning that 120 people have been accounted for, but 159 remain missing and four have been confirmed dead.