Crane Supplier Sued Over Collapse in Hurricane Irma

L&R contends Maxim provided a crane that was “in an unreasonably dangerous condition” as it collapsed during the hurricane Sept. 10 even though wind speeds were far less than what the crane should have been able to withstand, according to the Feb. 2 complaint.

A company that supplied the crane that collapsed at a downtown Miami construction site during Hurricane Irma is accused in a lawsuit of providing a defective crane.

X Miami, a 31-story, 464-unit apartment tower, is still under construction on the northeast corner of Fourth Street and Second Avenue near the Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus.

The tower was previously called Vice, and the Vice name was still on the construction entrance Tuesday, but the building is being rebranded as part of developer Property Markets Group’s X Social Communities portfolio, a media representative said.

L&R Structural Corp. Inc. is a Miami-based subcontractor hired to build the apartments. The company rented a crane Aug. 9, 2016, from Maxim Crane Works LP for $23,000 a month for the project, according to the complaint and lease agreement.

L&R contends Maxim provided a crane that was “in an unreasonably dangerous condition” as it collapsed during the hurricane Sept. 10 even though wind speeds were far less than what the crane should have been able to withstand, according to the Feb. 2 complaint.

Under the lease, L&R said it was Maxim’s responsibility to disassemble and remove the damaged crane after the storm, but Maxim refused, according to the complaint. Maxim sent an engineer to oversee L&R’s removal of the crane, which L&R did at its own cost.

Maxim also failed to repair or replace the crane in a “commercially reasonable time,” the lawsuit said.

Maxim didn’t return an emailed request for comment. A company representative declined comment by phone.

In a letter to L&R on Sept. 19, Maxim said the lease left L&R responsible for costs resulting from the accident.

“You are responsible to pay for all costs and expenses arising from or resulting from the accident, which would include … the cost of the repairs of the equipment, all retrieval costs and continued rent,” Maxim said in the letter signed by Ryan Gutwald, Maxim vice president of risk management. “The machine will remain on rent until it has been repaired, inspected and returned into our rental fleet.”

The Miami-Dade Circuit Court complaint listed breach of express warranty, breach of lease and strict products liability counts.

The lawsuit also claimed information was negligently supplied for the guidance of others. This stems from allegations that the hurricane preparedness plan supplied by Maxim, which L&R relied upon to prepare the construction site for the storm, was false and deficient, according to the complaint.

“Maxim failed to exercise reasonable care or competence to ensure the truth and accuracy of the information it supplied,” according to the complaint.

The lawsuit was filed by Holland & Knight attorneys Michael Candes, James McCrae and Andrew Albaugh in Orlando.

The crane was one of three that collapsed in South Florida during the hurricane.

Tower cranes, of which there were an estimated 25 in downtown Miami during the hurricane, aren’t disassembled or locked during a hurricane, but instead are left to move with the wind to offer less resistance.

The crane atop X Miami collapsed hours after Irma roared up the peninsula, according to the complaint.

Parts of the crane dangled over the Metromover and the Miami Dade College campus, according to the complaint.

The city and the college warned L&R that if the crane wasn’t removed by Sept. 18, each would start fining L&R, with the college specifying a $160,000 fine a day, according to the complaint.

But Miami Dade College couldn’t confirm this. No one at the college spoke to a subcontractor about this, Juan Mendieta, college media representative, said in an email.

Property Markets Group’s X Social Communities, or XSC, apartments are being developed throughout the U.S. to cater to professionals seeking convenience in an urban setting.

Aside from X Miami, other XSC projects in South Florida are X Las Olas in downtown Fort Lauderdale to be finished in winter 2020 and a 690-unit apartment building on a recently purchased 1.15-acre site at 400 Biscayne Blvd.

PMG declined to comment for this story.

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