Miami Dade College wins $33 million settlement over collapsed parking garage

The remains of a collapsed parking garage are being cleared and a new one will be built and ready in about 18 months.
The remains of a collapsed parking garage are being cleared and a new one will be built and ready in about 18 months. Miami Herald File / October 2014

Miami Dade College has reached a $33.5 million settlement with the contractor and subcontractors hired to build a parking garage at the Doral campus that collapsed during construction more than two years ago, killing four people and injuring seven others.

The settlement, both parties say, will allow the college to move forward on a new 1,500-space garage, which will alleviate an ongoing parking crunch for students at the West Campus, 3800 NW 115th Ave.

“We are satisfied with the settlement because it allows us to dismantle the first garage, which the original contractor wanted to repair, and allows us to build a brand new, safe structure,” said Juan Mendieta, the spokesman for Miami Dade College.

As part of the settlement, the college received $26.5 million, and $7 million the school owed the contractors for the garage was waived.

In January 2012, crews began construction on a $22.5 million, five-story garage to accommodate the increasing number of students at the campus, which opened in 2006. On Oct. 10, 2012, part of the nearly completed garage collapsed, killing four workers.

Killed were: Robert Budhoo, 53, who worked for Stryker Electric, and whose body was not found for two days after the incident; Carlos Hurtado de Mendoza, 48, a concrete setter; Jose Calderon, 60, who worked more than 30 years in construction; and Samuel Perez, 53, a concrete truck manager for a project subcontractor.

The families have since settled with the garage’s general contractor, Ajax Building Corp., and several other subcontractors.

The college filed a lawsuit in 2013 against Ajax Building Corp. and the subcontractors to recoup money to dismantle the partial garage and build a new structure.

Michael Jay Rune II, who represented the general contractor, Ajax Building Corp, said settling was “in the best interest of everyone.”

“I think the bottom line is that this was a terrible tragedy and the settlement brings to resolution all of the claims against the parties who designed and constructed the parking garage in a way that is satisfactory to everyone," Rune said Monday.

The settlement, reached last month, was the result of nearly a year of mediation and involved “many different entities,” Rune said. Among the subcontractors involved: M.A.R. Contracting Inc., Coreslab Structures, Sims Crane & Equipment Company, and MEP Structural Engineering and Inspections.

Attorney Stuart Sobel, who represented Miami Dade College, said he was “thrilled” with the settlement.

“It's not usual that you can get so many people to agree without significantly more litigation,” Sobel said

The settlement will cover the cost of demolishing the old structure and building a new garage. The dismantling of the damaged garage began about three weeks ago, Mendieta said. Crews are clearing the last of the rubble and construction is expected to begin soon and take about 18 months.

As the work continues, the college is using space at a Doral park on Northwest 33rd Street. Shuttle buses take students to and from the camp[us, about 10 minutes away.

“It's great that the people who were responsible for the tragedy stepped up to the plate and took responsibility for this tragedy so we will have our garage,” Sobel said.

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