Families of the 98 victims of the 2021 condominium collapse near Miami Beach, along with injured survivors, could split hundreds of millions of dollars in payouts under a preliminary settlement agreement announced Wednesday.
The settlement will top $997 million, the plaintiffs’ lawyer said in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, according to reports in the Miami Herald and Sun Sentinel newspapers. How the money will be distributed among the families and injured victims, along with attorneys’ fees, has yet to be decided.
The judge in the case, who last year had charged the lawyers with reaching a speedy resolution, marveled at the results so far.
“The result achieved and the speed is beyond extraordinary,” Hanzman said, the Herald reported. “When this case first came in this court I told everyone this wouldn’t be business as usual. This was a tragedy of unspeakable proportions. If we didn’t have the right people handling this case, it would be a 10-year slog with tens of millions in attorneys’ fees.”
The judge must approve the settlement before it is finalized and he said he hopes to get it done before the one-year anniversary of the collapse on June 24.
The money will come from more than 10 sources, including insurers of the security company for the Champlain Towers South building in Surfside, on the northern edge of Miami Beach. The security firm was responsible for safety systems at the condo building and will pay the largest share, more than $450 million, according to news reports.
Other defendants include parties associated with the condominium association, engineers, architects, the town of Surfside, where the building was situated, and the developers and contractors at 87 Park, the condo next door to the collapsed tower.
Plaintiffs had argued that the construction of the adjacent condo in 2016 had contributed to the collapse by destabilizing the Champlain foundation and forcing runoff into the building’s underpinnings, according to news reports and lawsuit filings. The 87 Park owners and associated firms have not admitted fault in the case, and settled for an undisclosed amount. An engineering firm for 87 Park will pay about $8.5 million as part of the settlement.
Two other defendants have settled in recent weeks, including the powerhouse Florida condo law firm of Becker, which advised the Champlain Towers board. The firm’s professional liability insurer will pay an estimated $31 million in its part of a settlement.
The engineering firm hired to inspect the towers shortly before the collapse also has agreed to a $16 million settlement, paid by the engineering firm’s insurance company.
Repairs to the tower, which had been postponed by the Champlain condo association, were estimated to cost $15 million, and had just begun when part of the high-rise building crumbled, according to news reports. Investigations are continuing, but have raised questions about Champlain Towers’ construction techniques, modifications, water infiltration, unrepaired cracks in concrete and other deterioration since it was built more than 40 years ago.
The Champlain South condo association’s insurer also has paid out $50 million, according to reports.
Part of the proceeds from the sale of the property, where the remaining part of the condo has been demolished and removed, will eventually be added to the total settlement. That will increase the total for the settlement to more than $1 billion, the Herald reported.
Separately, Judge Hanzman in March approved a $83 million settlement for lawsuits brought by individual owners of units in the Champlain Towers condo building who lost property and belongings. The settlement money would come from the condo association’s property and liability insurers and from the sale of the property.
Top photo: A makeshift memorial wall honoring the victims of the nearby deadly building collapse. (AP photo/Lynne Sladky)
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