The Champlain Towers collapse in Surfside has caused shock waves of grief and horror to reverberate through not only Miami but also the Nation as a whole. The realization that these families could not count on being safe and sound from life ending danger, while peacefully sleeping in their own beds, is genuinely frightening. The fact that what was apparently a negligently designed and maintained building led to the sudden deaths of so many good people is painful beyond words.
Soon the recovery phase of this disaster will give way to a thorough investigation. We already know that properly constructed buildings do not simply collapse. The spontaneous implosion of the Champlain Towers building was likely the byproduct of sins of commission and omission on the part of numerous individuals and corporate entities. Cracked and deteriorated concrete, exposed rebar and recurrent flooding in a sinking forty-year-old structure subjected to woefully delayed inspections and repairs, among many other factors, all conceivably contributed to a disaster that should never have happened.
Now, it is imperative that the grieving family members of those who so needlessly lost their lives do not have their anguish compounded by an unfeeling legal system that unjustly permits them to fall into yet another abyss. In an instant, families have lost precious loved ones as well as their homes. Yet, it has been reported that the Condo Association for Champlain Towers only had about $50 million in liability insurance coverage which is, of course, wholly inadequate to compensate all those who have and will suffer from this terrible day for the rest of their days.
However, this building did not fall solely because of negligence on the part of a condominium association. The residents of Champlain Towers were likely victims of private and public sector nonfeasance or even malfeasance. But, at a minimum, they were betrayed by a government regulatory system that simply did not do its job. If it had, Champlain Towers would still be standing. It is, therefore, imperative for the State of Florida to create a safety net for the Surfside families that ensures that their suffering is not compounded by years of litigation in search of insurance coverage that inevitably leads, many years down the road, to a mere tincture of compensation and a monumental miscarriage of justice.
Instead, if it appears that the responsible parties do not have anything approximating adequate coverage, consideration should be given to setting up a system of compensation that can provide a measure of true justice for these families. There is precedent for government to insure losses when the private sector cannot do so. One relatively recent historical example would be the 9/11 fund that exists for certain victims of the World Trade Center collapse. Now, in the aftermath of this disastrous building collapse, Florida, with or without Federal aid, should become an excess insurer of this loss that so many pervasive systemic failures undoubtedly made possible. Especially when government does not protect people from harm, it should do everything in its power to alleviate the suffering to which its actions or inactions most certainly contributed.
In the final analysis, our leaders will not help to heal the Surfside victims with mere words of condolence. What is needed is action that will make a lasting difference in the lives of Surfside’s mourning families.