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Lawsuit claims "negligence" in massive Miami Gardens condo fire

Lawsuit claims "negligence" in massive Miami Gardens condo fire
Lawsuit claims "negligence" in massive Miami Gardens condo fire 03:00

MIAMI - A lawsuit has been filed following a massive fire that ripped through a Miami Gardens condo complex, leaving nearly 200 people without a place to live.

Attorneys representing those who've been displaced say the condo association and property management were negligent, ignoring "blatant signs that could have prevented the fire."

"We want to make sure their stories are not lost that they're not swept under the rug," said attorney Yolanda Strader. 

The fire at the New World Condo Apartments, which happened in January, started in one unit on the second floor and quickly spread as it was fueled by gusty winds. A section of the building's roof collapsed.

The owners of condo units in the building received notice-of-violation paperwork from the city of Miami Gardens that said, in part, that the building was unsafe to inhabit.

A former resident said she's struggled since the fire.

"My situation is I'm going back and forth from the shelter to my daughter's to a friend because trying to find a place to stay in Miami is ridiculous, I can't afford it," said Shekita Whitfield.

After the fire, residents learned the building was not insured, even though they had been paying for insurance in their HOA fees.

The property manager said the insurance was canceled because the 40-year certification was not done. She said the board chose not to have it done because it was too expensive.

The building also did have a working fire alarm system.

The residents' attorneys are pushing for damages in excess of eight million dollars. 

The city of Miami Gardens is not named in this suit, but for weeks we've been trying to get answers from them regarding a failed 40-year recertification…and what the city could have done to make the building safer.   We caught up with city officials Tuesday at an event. The mayor referred us to deputy city manager Craig Clay. 

"How was it able to stay open, and still operate if it hadn't passed the 40-year inspection for several years?" CBS 4's Ted Scouten asked. Clay responded,  "The 40-year inspection, I think, came up in 2008, something like that.  The other alternative would have been that those residents would have been put out, back then if we closed the building due to the 40-year inspection," Clay said. 

Scouten asked, "Looking back is there something that could have been done differently?" Clay said, "I don't think so, I think we stepped in right when the fire happened. As a city, stepped in, along with the Red Cross and the county to get folks back to a stable living environment."

See the entire interview with Clay: 

Miami Gardens Deputy City Manager Craig Clay interview 02:02

We tried reaching out to the management company and the condo association board members, we have not heard back. 

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