Army veteran Ricardo Vazquez thought he would never again hear the sounds of explosions, especially in his own West Kendall neighborhood.
He was wrong.
Vazquez, who was stationed in Afghanistan in 2010, was watching TV in his room on a Saturday morning when he heard a blast outside that shook his home.
“It felt like an earthquake,” said Vazquez, 40, who immediately looked out his window after ensuring his two children were safe.
Across the street, a rented house used as a marijuana growing operation, had imploded. The powerful blast rocked the neighborhood and residents later claimed the incident caused physical damage to their properties.
“The first thing I saw was smoke coming out from the roof of the house. I saw dust and insulation all around.”
The blast occurred in 2012. Last month, Vazquez won a $100,000 lawsuit against Citizens Property Insurance Corp., which had argued the damages were pre-existing.
“Citizens’ position has been that the damage claimed in this lawsuit was not a result of the explosion. The jury did not agree,” a Citizen’s spokesperson wrote in an email to the Miami Herald. “In other cases stemming from this unfortunate incident, however, juries have so far ruled that reported damage was not caused by the explosion.”
According to Vazquez, it rained on the day of the explosion. He later notice a long crack under his corner window and water slowly seeping into his home through the frame.
The day of the explosion, officials sealed off what remained of the hydroponics lab with yellow caution tape and nearby residents were quarantined for 48 hours.
As the days passed, Vazquez and his neighbors started to notice numerous structural damages in and around their homes. Small cracks on floor tiles, fractured driveways and damaged roofs were among some of their claims.
“It was an odyssey. Three years of suffering,” said Vazquez, who with his wife sued the insurance company. A six-day jury trial ended about 10 p.m. Aug. 24.
Vazquez now looks to the future in hopes of finally repairing his home.
“This is the house of my dreams,” he said.
For others, the legal battle continues.
Another neighbor, Jorge Gomez, lives about 150 feet away from the explosion site. He is also suing Citizens.
Citizens sent out three separate letters denying his claims stating the damages was pre-existing wear and tear, Gomez said.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Gomez, who noticed physical damages to his home immediately after the blast.
Cracks on his exterior walls, separations on his outside floor and leaks near the home’s foyer area were among some of his claims.
“Year after year we are forced to have home owners insurance. We get our policies renewed. We pay our policies. We keep our end of the deal with the insurance company, but whenever we have a problem, Citizens turns their backs on us,” said Gomez, who has been insured by Citizens since 2010.
According to Citizens, “it’s important to note that nine out of 10 times, Citizens pays claims quickly and without litigation. It is our duty to stand behind individual policyholders by timely paying legitimate claims while ensuring that we do everything we can to keep rates low for all of our policyholders.”
Gomez is one of five other neighbors who’ve each sued Citizens. All cases are separate.