Ratzan Weissman & Boldt and co-counsel Sean M. Cleary Miami secured a $12 million jury verdict for the family of a man who died after falling through a roof he was repairing, which featured skylights made from old materials no longer approved for building.
It’s a result that emphasizes why building rules and codes should be strictly followed to protect everyone, as the jury found the defendants responsible for construction defects, unpermitted roofing work and negligence — all of which led to the death of a 23-year-old man.
Jon Does’ family filed suit in September 2018, alleging 10 counts of negligence on the part of building owner Martex Corp., contractor Maintenance Authority Professional Services Inc., which oversaw the roof repairs, and FM Roofing Services, which performed unpermitted repairs.
“The notion that a building owner has an obligation to keep his or her property safe and warn against any hidden dangers that might affect others.”- Stuart Ratzan
Cleary said the resulting verdict should remind building owners why they should heed rules and regulations.
“This case demonstrates why building safety rules, deriving from our common law as well as the Florida Building Code, were created to protect everyone, including John Doe,” Cleary said. “This case also demonstrates that when building owners violate the building safety rules, catastrophic consequences can and do occur. The jury understood the importance of the rules, carefully analyzed the evidence, followed the law, and entered a just verdict.”
The accident happened in 2015, when Martex, the owner of a warehouse in Miami-Dade County, hired the roofing company for repairs. But the work was allegedly performed without a permit — a violation of Florida law — and the contractor and roofers replaced the roof but didn’t bring it up to 2014 Florida Building Code standards, which was also required under state law.
The lawsuit also claimed the roofers violated the 2014 Building Code by not fortifying the skylights on the roof. They were original to the building, dating back to 1988, according to Stuart Ratzan.
“They did nothing to it,” Ratzan said. “They just let it linger until it dilapidated.”
The warehouse is a one-story warehouse facility where each individual warehouse has its own street number and address, Ratzan said. It’s set up like a loft about 20 feet high, and each of those units has an air conditioning compressor on the roof.
“There are skylights, and the skylights are made out of acrylic, [in] 1988 brittle plastic which was essentially taken off the list and no longer approved as a building material in 1994,” Ratzan said. “Instead, polycarbonate was the main plastic approved. Polycarbonate has 250 times the impact strength of glass and it’s 200 times stronger impact-wise than acrylic. It would not only protect against a fall up there, but it would also protect against hurricane-force wind and pressure.”
John Doe was 22 in late 2016, when he was performing HVAC work on the roof when he fell through an old skylight. John worked with his father, and their team claimed they had no warning about the safety of the skylights.
“He fell through the skylight 20 feet down to the concrete floor below, cracked his skull on the floor and suffered a massive brain injury,” Ratzan said. “He was in a vegetative state for the next year and a half and passed away in June of 2018 at the age of 23.”
The case went to trial in mid-June 2021 and the jury ruled in favor of the plaintiffs July 1, a few days after the Surfside tragedy.
“It’s not just the building code. It’s common law and what I think is one of the most potent ways of enforcing that is through jury trials,” Ratzan said.
Ratzan Weissman & Boldt have obtained more than $200 million in verdicts and settlements. Our firm is dedicated to honorable and unyielding representation of patients, consumers, and catastrophically injured individuals in state and federal courts. These cases are examples of the achievements of our firm’s attorneys. All are real cases. However, these examples should not be taken as a guarantee that the same results would be achieved in another case.