Lawsuit alleges faulty fire sprinklers in Miami high-rise condo buildings

Article Courtesy of The Miami Herald

By David Ovalle

Published December 6, 2015


At least two high-rise Miami condos are among many that used faulty and potentially dangerous plastic pipes in fire sprinkler systems — a problem that was covered up for years — according to a newly filed federal lawsuit.

Lawyers for condo associations at the Wind Condominium and Latitude on the River buildings are suing a dozen manufacturers, suppliers and distributors behind the sprinkler systems.

According to the complaint, pipes made of “chlorinated polyvinyl chloride ” or CPVC, were popular in fire sprinkler systems during a nationwide building boom that started around 2005. But the pipes contain a resin that breaks down easily when combined with other common building materials, the suit contends, leading to leaks, cracks and a loss of pressure.

The result: sprinkler systems that might not work if a fire broke out, according to a news release issued Friday.

“Each condominium building may have to spend in excess of $50 million to repair their systems,” said Coral Gables lawyer Ervin Gonzalez, of Colson Hicks Eidson. “And many homeowners will have to find alternative living arrangements while their condominiums are being repaired.”

The plaintiffs are The Wind Condo, 350 S. Miami Ave., a 41-story building finished in 2008, and Latitude on the River, 185 SW Seventh St., a 44-story complex completed in 2011.

Lawyers for the associations, including the firm Siegfried Rivera, claim the problem exists in condo buildings nationwide and could result in claims of more than $1 billion. The class-action suit was filed in South Florida federal court.

The suit also alleges that some of the companies that produced the pipes knew of the defects since at least 2007, but engaged in a “massive cover-up” to hide the safety issues.

According to the lawsuit, an engineer for the Ohio-based sprinkler system company Lubrizol warned his employer after receiving samples of damaged pipes from condos across the country. But marketing representatives “balked at disclosing the defects,” according to the lawsuit.

A spokeswoman for Lubrizol declined to comment on Friday.