Workers, Families Settle Over Florida Garage Collapse

May 3, 2013

The families of nine men killed or injured in the collapse of a South Florida community college parking garage last year have settled lawsuits against the general contractor and several subcontractors.

Their lawyers announced the settlements Wednesday, but the terms are confidential.

The wrongful death and injury lawsuits were filed by relatives of the four workers who lost their lives – Jose Calderon, Robert Budhoo, Samuel Perez and Carlos Mendoza – and five severely injured workers – Christian Ramirez, Francisco Castaneda, Frank Stankus, Anslim Antoine and Mark DiBacco.

“All parties look forward to better days,” attorneys Stuart Z. Grossman, Ervin Gonzalez and Alan Goldfarb said in a joint statement.

The defendants were general contractor Ajax Building Corp. and several subcontractors.

Ajax released a statement saying they were thankful workers and families could reach an amicable resolution.

“From the start, our primary concern has been the future of the injured workers and those who lost loved ones in this tragic mishap,” the statement said. “As we move forward, Ajax remains committed to determining the specific cause of the accident so steps can be taken to ensure that nothing like it ever happens again.”

The five-story, $20 million concrete garage at Miami Dade College’s west campus collapsed Oct. 10. The body of one worker was not recovered for more than a week because the accident site was so unstable. The school’s 8,000 students had to attend classes on other Miami-Dade campuses until January. No students were injured in the collapse.

Last month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration penalized Ajax and four other companies more than $38,000 combined for the collapse. OSHA found evidence of missing welds and grout in some support columns, failure to properly brace columns and failure to inspect 18 columns as required. OSHA also said contractors didn’t follow project drawings and instructions. The result, according to the citations, was a failure to provide a workplace “free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.”

The 1,855-space garage project involved use of pre-cast concrete construction, a common method in which massive concrete pieces are created off-site and slotted into place by workers often using large cranes. The first floor was to have office and classroom space.

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