The 28-story Miami-Dade Courthouse was dedicated and opened in 1928. As a result, the iconic structure has been a celebrated part of the skyline for generations. The life of the elegant courthouse building took an unexpected turn late on Friday, July 6, when the Miami-Dade Mayor made an alarming public announcement. The Courthouse will be closed due to substantial structural problems requiring immediate remediation.
Engineering Report Spells Out Major Structural Problems
In the aftermath of the Surfside condo collapse in June, buildings throughout South Florida have been undergoing comprehensive inspections to identify problems with their structural stability. A thorough inspection of the Miami-Dade Courthouse was undertaken on June 30 by U.S. Structures, Inc. The inspection revealed a number of major problems with the building that required the immediate closure of the structure:
- Support beams and joists in the Courthouse are suffering dangerous structural distress
- Steel columns in the building are in poor condition
- Concrete columns in the Courthouse are displaying numerous cracks
Immediate Evacuation of Miami-Dade Courthouse Ordered
Directly after receipt of the report from U.S. Structures, Miami-Dade Officials ordered the immediate evacuation of the Courthouse. Employees who work in the building have now been directed to work from home as they did during part of the coronavirus pandemic.
As an aside, no one has been reported injured as a result of structural issues with the building or during the evacuation. The removal of people from the building until repairs are made was an appropriate preemptive strategy.
Court Proceedings to Become Virtual
Proceedings in the Courthouse that was been found unsuitable for occupancy will now be virtual, similar to what occurred at the height of the pandemic. Parties with cases pending in the Miami Dade-Courthouse will have their matters rescheduled. They will receive information about the status of their cases and how their matters will proceed virtually for the time being. The building primarily has been used for civil lawsuits.
Future of the Miami-Dade Courthouse
Prior to the emergency evacuation of the building on Friday, the early stages of construction of a new courthouse were already underway in Miami. The goal was to replace the now-evacuated courthouse with the new facility in the future. Plans were in place to sell the existing Miami-Dade Courthouse when the new structure was open. Those plans remain in place.
Prior Problems with Miami-Dade Courthouse
The dangerous structural conditions identified by the inspection report released on July 9 are not the first issues in recent times associated with the building. Other issues that have plagued the Miami-Dade Courthouse have included:
- Façade problems
Evidently none of these issues were classified as immediately life-threatening.
Doctrine of Premises Liability
Individuals and entities responsible for buildings in which workers, members of the public and others have access have a legal duty when it comes to safety issues called the doctrine of premises liability. Pursuant to the doctrine of premises liability, an individual or entity with control over a building or other property must keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition.
The report from the structural inspector and the doctrine of premises liability warranted the evacuation of the Miami-Dade Courthouse. The bottom line is that without immediate repairs to the structure, the building was not in a reasonably safe condition. Thus, the evacuation was necessary and needed to be immediate.
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