West Palm Beach wall collapse victims file suit

Posted at 12:04 AM, Apr 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-19 07:10:29-04

Victims of last month's wall collapse in downtown West Palm Beach say they are filing suit against property owner Ram Realty.

It's been six weeks since the east wall of the Alexander Lofts collapsed onto the William W. Price Law Offices in downtown West Palm Beach back on March 3, 2015. Yet, owners say they still haven't been able to get back inside.

Monday afternoon the Price Law Offices filed a complaint against Ram Realty in Palm Beach County Circuit Court demanding that Ram cleanup tons of bricks and wood scaffolding that is still crushing the building at 326 Fern St. 

The Contact 5 investigators have also uncovered public records that victims of the collapse believe may show what caused it.

"We want action it's simple as can be," said attorney George Hebert as he stared at the office building he's been waiting six weeks to get back into. He says massive wooden platforms built to protect the law office, as contractors remove the rest of the bricks from the east wall of the Alexander lofts, have failed.

"The platform is actually buckling and it's being compromised as well by the weight of the bricks," Hebert said. It's around 40,000 pounds of bricks according to the complaint filed against Ram Realty.

Those bricks must be cleared before anyone is allowed back in the building to start the long process of assessing the damage done after nearly two months of exposure to the elements.

Hebert says another goal for he and his colleagues is determining what caused the collapse in the first place. It's something he says they've had theories on for quite some time.

"The reverberations that you can feel from the construction site across the street. It's constant," Hebert said.

He's referring to vibrations from the construction of "The Alexander" just across the street at 333 Fern Street, slated to be the tallest building in West Palm Beach.

Hebert's colleagues started voicing concerns about vibrations from the Alexander construction site last September when they arrived at work on Monday, September 21 and found shelves in the supply closet had collapsed. However, the day after the wall collapse city engineers said they didn't believe vibrations were a factor.

The Contact 5 investigators requested all emails between the city, property owners Ram Realty, and general contractor Kast Construction. We found city engineer Ken Conrad issued a "conditional stop work order" on the Alexander project on September 29, just days after the shelves collapsed at the William W. Price Law Offices.

Conrad's email explains that vibrations from sheet piling at the site appeared to be the cause of a sewer line break as well as damage to buildings at 310 and 320 S. Dixie Highway.

Internal emails from the city of West Palm Beach also show sheet piling at The Alexander site was only 10% complete by October 1, 2015. Five months later the east wall of the Alexander lofts collapsed.

Contact 5 obtained a copy of a vibration monitoring report done by Ardaman & Associates for Ram Realty as a result of the complaints from the William W. Price Law Firm in September. The report says vibrations from the Alexander construction site were within state standards but it does not show actual vibration readings. We reached out to Ram Realty and Kast Construction for those documents but have not received a response yet.