Attorneys call for task force following Surfside collapse to recommend reforms

'People are saying, 'Am I safe?'' attorney Peter S. Sachs says
Surfside condo collapse, July 1, 2021
Posted at 3:21 PM, Jul 01, 2021

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Pressure is growing for state action following the Surfside collapse.

Though a cause is still unknown, South Florida attorneys have started pushing for a state task force to recommend reforms and prevent future disasters.

The call comes as President Joe Biden, Gov. Ron DeSantis, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and other elected officials met Thursday at the fallen 12-story condo tower.

President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden meets with first responders in Miami Beach, Fla., Thursday, July 1, 2021, who were working on the condo tower that collapsed in Surfside, Fla., last week.

Rescue and recovery work was paused as crews feared the further collapse of the remaining structure.

As responders awaited a return to work, Cava told the president during a roundtable discussion that investigators would "examine every inch" of the building to find a cause.

"We want to make sure," Cava said, "the world wants to make sure a tragedy of this nature never, ever happens again."

As the investigation begins to take shape with local, state and federal resources, a firm of Boca Raton lawyers has requested DeSantis impanel a task force to help.

The condo law experts at Sachs Sax Caplan sent a letter Wednesday evening saying their team had started fielding safety questions from across the state.

"People are saying, 'Am I safe?'" said founding partner Peter S. Sachs. "'What repairs do we need in my building? What have we done, what have we done?'"

Sachs said the task force could include engineers, architects, contractors and other experts. The group would review what happened in Surfside and recommend regulatory and legislative reforms before the next lawmaking session. Legislators return to Tallahassee for the 2022 session in January.

"We don't have any re-inspections required in Palm Beach County, or anywhere in the state, outside of Miami-Dade and Broward County," Sachs said. "If we could prevent this from happening again, that would be a wonderful legacy to this whole situation."

Peter S. Sachs, Boca Raton attorney
Attorney Peter S. Sachs says safety questions are being raised across the state after the Surfside condo collapse.

DeSantis did something similar when reopening Florida last year. Following the COVID-19 shutdown, he brought together stakeholders from different industries to make recommendations.

DeSantis' office responded to the Surfside task force request Friday morning. Press Secretary Christina Pushaw said the governor remained committed to helping authorities with investigative efforts.

"Governor DeSantis has repeatedly and emphatically supported an investigation into what happened in Surfside, and considering that the local municipalities who have jurisdiction in the area have already begun their investigation, Governor DeSantis has offered any state resource they may need to aid in the investigation," Pushaw said in a statement. "Ultimately, it’s important that we find out exactly what happened in Surfside to make sure it does not happen anywhere else."

Leadership in the House and Senate recently conveyed similar messages. They said the focus should be on rescue and recovery, for now.

"Our thoughts right now are with the families who have lost their loved ones and with the rescue workers who continue to do yeoman's work on the scene," said House Speaker Chris Sprowls in a Monday statement. "It would be premature to speculate or prejudge the situation. We expect a comprehensive investigation will be conducted, and once we have those findings, the Florida House will consider what legislative actions are required and appropriate."

Even so, some Florida lawmakers are already suggesting new laws.

State Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Miami said earlier this week he'd like to see more regular and comprehensive inspections of buildings across the state.

Pizzo, whose district includes Surfside, said the inspections would depend on a building's location, age and materials.