Mother’s suit says Miami Beach condo demolition that killed son was ‘illegal, reckless’

Article Courtesy of  The Miami Herald

By David J. Neal

Published April 12, 2019

The Miami Beach oceanfront condominium demolition that killed a Lighthouse Point father last July used an “illegal, reckless” technique rejected by the city in a permit application, a lawsuit claims.

Judith Landis of Lighthouse Point filed the lawsuit. She had to bury her son, Samuel Landis, after parts of the former Marlborough House building formed a concrete shower as he stood on Collins Avenue on July 23 while working for AlliedBean Demolition. The 46-year-old father of a teenage daughter lost a leg and died 11 days later from his injuries.

Defendants in the lawsuit include Miami Beach Associates, which bought the Marlborough House to tear it down and build a new condominium; general contractor Winmar Construction; and the subcontractors that handled the demolition, AlliedBean Demolition and AA Demolition Management.

“This was a terrible tragedy,” Miami Beach Associates Manager Marcelo Kingston said via e-mail. “Our hearts remain with the Landis family over their loss.”

A reporter calling AlliedBean and asking for either director, Liliana Alvarez or Kevin Bean, was given Bean’s email address. He had not returned an email as of Tuesday afternoon.

The agent listed with the state for Lake Wales-based AA Demolition, Donald Dority, said he had nothing to do with this demolition and knew nothing about it.

Samuel Landis worked in construction and demolition for almost 20 years and ran his own demolition company for 10 years. Judith Landis’ attorney, Steven Osber of Conrad & Scherer, said Samuel Landis “might have had some supervisory responsibilities over some aspects of the demolition.”

But, Osber said, “Being experienced in demolition, he would not have put himself in harm’s way if he knew the method by which they would take down this building.”

The method forms the meat of the lawsuit.

Miami Beach Associates’ application for an implosion-demolition permit in August 2017 was rejected, City Building Director Ana Salgueiro said in July, because implosions aren’t allowed in Miami Beach. A regular demolition permit was issued in April 2018 for destruction by “conventional methods.”

In this head-on view of the former Marlborough House's demolition, you can see the debris strike the person later identified as AlliedBean's project manager and the manager unconscious when the dust clears.

The “Description of Work” on the work permit says “Total demolition of multi-family residential structure by conventional method. No longer using the implosion method.”

That page is signed by Miami Beach Associates’ Kingston and Winmar Construction President Luis Leon.

Conventional demolition, the lawsuit notes, “typically involves a crane, excavator or wrecking ball and starts at the top of the building, working its way down. Contrarily, implosion demolition involves either the use of explosives or the non-explosive implosion method of the removal of structural components of the building...”

But implosion was used on July 23. The lawsuit says AlliedBean and AA Demolition went for “tripping the building,” yanking the supports out from under the building.

“This intended plan was not authorized by the city, but was illegally authorized and/or approved by all of the defendants, who collectively agreed that it was to be performed surreptitiously, in contumacious disregard of the City of Miami Beach ordinances and despite the authorized method set forth in the approved building permit,” the lawsuit says.

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated the incident and proposed $17,590 in fines after finding two violations classified as serious. The majority of the fine was for not doing inspections throughout the demolition process to find problems in weakened building materials that could endanger workers.

After a settlement, AlliedBean Demolition is paying $12,324.

OSHA’s Accident Investigation summary said, “At 12:00 p.m. on July 23, 2018, an employee was observing the demolition of the building. The employee was struck and killed by two chunks of concrete that was flung across the street as the building collapsed. The employee was struck on the leg and in the chest by pieces of concrete measuring approximately 40 inches by 32 inches by 14 inches.”