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Dozens of people were injured–several critically–when the deck of a popular South Florida restaurant collapsed during the middle of a Miami Heat game this week. Shuckers Bar and Grill which is located at the Best Western on the 79th Street Causeway in North Bay Village, is a popular hangout for Heat fans, especially on the nights of big games.

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Every hotel, restaurant, bar, and cafe in Florida has a legal obligation to ensure that the property is maintained and operated in a reasonably safe manner for customers. This means that under Florida law, the floors, decks, ceilings, and walls must be inspected, clean, maintained and constructed in compliance with all appropriate building codes.

There are several safety codes that apply to different structures in Florida, including the Accessibility Code Miami Dade Building Code and the Village of North Bay Village Code of Ordinances. Having investigated hundreds of accident cases against Miami restaurants and hotels for over twenty years, I believe that most likely this tragedy was both predictable and preventable if the building and structure had been properly inspected and maintained.

WHO IS IN CHARGE OF INSPECTING THE INSPECTORS?

In the State of Florida, Florida’s Department of Professional Regulation or DPR is responsible for licensing and regulating building code administrators and inspectors. The Board meets regularly to consider applications and review disciplinary cases. Sadly and I hope coincidentally, Governor Rick Scott recently lowered the continual educational requirements for Florida’s building inspectors when he approved HB 517on April 6, 2012–making it easier for inspectors to reinstate an invalid license.

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MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

In addition to the State’s certification, Miami-Dade County’s building inspectors must be locally certified by the Board of Rules and Appeals (BORA) and share in the responsibility to ensure that restaurants like Shuckers are safely maintained. BORA will most likely conduct an investigation into whether or not any building codes were violated by Shuckers or the Best Western.

NORTH BAY VILLAGE

North Bay Village Building and Zoning Department Chief Building Officer, Raul Rodriguez is directly responsible for ensuring that all construction done in the North Bay Village complies with the Village’s code as well as the Florida Building Code; and that the contractors who built and recently remodeled Shuckers had obtained the appropriate building permits and passed inspection.

CLAIMS AGAINST SHUCKERS

At this point, building inspectors and structural engineers will need to determine if the deck can be repaired or must be completely demolished. I have not yet personally inspected the scene of this accident, but I imagine that the engineers will probably find signs of a structural stress, such as cracks, unusual sagging, rotting wood or termite damage.

In my opinion, and pursuant to Miami-Dade County’s Code Section 8-5, Shuckers restaurant should be completely boarded to prevent any further injury, damage, and to forestall illegal entry and vandalism. Depending on the severity of the structural damage, repair work may also pose serious risks for cleanup crews who may be exposed to accidental electrocution or electrical fires.

In addition, the accident scene is now evidence that needs to be preserved in the investigation of a civil action against Shucker and possibly the associated Best Western hotel for failure to comply with the applicable building and safety codes.

Our Miami restaurant accident attorneys are available to answer your questions regarding any potential Florida restaurant accident injury claim. Please contact me Spencer Aronfeld or call our offices at 305-441-0440 for a free initial consultation additional information about your legal rights.