Family of worker killed in MDC garage collapse has filed suit against contractors

12/03/2012 1:58 PM

12/03/2012 10:10 PM

The widow of one of four workers who died after a Miami Dade College parking garage collapsed filed a lawsuit Monday against five construction companies hired for the project.

The wrongful death suit, filed by Migdalia López, alleges that the companies’ negligence led to the death of her husband, Samuel Pérez, who was trapped for 17 hours under the rubble until a rescue team amputated his legs to get him out. Pérez, 53, died three hours later at a hospital.

“I want justice so that this doesn’t happen again,” López said in a press conference Monday at the office of Colson Hicks Eidson in Coral Gables.

The lawsuit also accuses the companies of rushing the project on the college’s Doral campus and not complying with minimum safety requirements.

The companies include general contractor Ajax Building Corporation Inc.; management company M.A.R. Contracting, Inc.; engineering and inspecting company MEP Structural Engineering and Inspections; engineering company Bliss & Nyitray, Inc.; and architecture firm Haryard Jolly, Inc.

A spokeswoman for Ajax said that she could not comment on the lawsuit but that the company is cooperating with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration in its investigation to determine the cause of the collapse.

“Ajax is committed to a full investigation of the tragedy,” said Alia Faraj, of the public relations firm, Ron Sachs Communications. “Particularly as we enter the holiday season, our thoughts and prayers remain with the families and loved one of those affected by this tragedy.”

The collapse also took the lives of Carlos Hurtado de Mendoza, 48; José Calderón, 60; and Robert Budhoo, 53.

Budhoo’s family also has filed suit.

Two days before the collapse, a crane crashed against one of the structure’s columns. The construction work was stopped briefly while the crane was repaired and the structure inspected. Attorney Ervin A. González, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of López, said the work should not have continued.

“When we are talking about this type of tonnage and this type of error, which was reckless, there is going to be a loss of lives and serious injuries,” he said.

Pérez, who worked in the construction field for some 20 years, was inside a cement truck for E & E Concrete Pumping Service when the collapse took place.

When the family got the news of the collapse, Perez’ stepson Jimmy Ramírez, 23, said a friend took him to the site. Ramírez said he left his mother at home so she wouldn’t worry. They waited for hours at the scene while rescue teams made attempts to get Pérez out of the rubble.

“I was hopeful because you have to have faith,” Ramírez said. “But I didn’t want my mother to go, in case it was the worst case. I didn’t want other people to break the news to her. I wanted to tell her myself together with my brother.”

Pérez and López met in Miami in 1996 and married in 1999. Pérez, who earned about $17 an hour, was the family’s breadwinner, going to work every morning at 5 a.m.

Now López says she depends on the charity of friends and family.

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