A Florida judge on Saturday gave initial approval to a more than $1 billion settlement to families who lost loved ones in last year’s collapse of a Florida beachfront condominium. in which 98 people died.
The rapid settlement of the unprecedented collapse of the 12-storey Champlain Towers South building in the early morning hours of June 24, 2021 means that potential years of legal battles will be avoided.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman, who is overseeing lawsuits after the collapse, told a remote hearing it was the best possible outcome given the loss of life and property. in the disaster.
“It’s a great result,” Hanzman said before giving preliminary approval to the deal, which was announced on Friday. “It was a highly contested deal.”
Rachel Furst, co-chair of the group of lawyers representing the victims’ families, said the settlement also means the defendants – insurance companies, developers, the town of Surfside and others – will have “complete peace” over the fact that they will no longer be prosecuted. Still, some people may decide to opt out of the agreement and pursue their own independent claims.
“It was heavily negotiated,” Furst said. “We believe this is an exceptional settlement.”
Under the agreement, those directly involved in the settlement will have until June 16 to file notice that they intend to opt out. A week later, on June 23, Judge Hanzman will hold a fairness hearing to allow anyone objecting to the settlement to be heard.
Attorney Michael Goldberg, the court-appointed receiver handling the case for the judge, said notice would be sent to all family members of those who died, to be posted on Champlain’s website Towers South and will also be published in the Miami Herald. .
“We’re going to start immediately,” Goldberg said.
The total for families who lost loved ones in the collapse is around $1.02 billion. Separately, people whose condos were destroyed and lost property such as furniture and memorabilia will split about $96 million.
The families of the victims will have to file claims, as the money will not be distributed equally. The goal is to start distributing money by September.
The money comes from several sources, including insurance companies, engineering companies and a recently built luxury condominium next door. Neither party admits to wrongdoing. A billionaire Dubai developer is set to buy the 1.8 acre (1 hectare) beachfront site for $120 million, helping with the settlement.
Only three survivors were found despite the round-the-clock efforts of rescuers who dug through a 40-foot (12-metre) high pile of rubble for two weeks. Three dozen more people were able to escape from the part of the building that remained standing. All 135 units were eventually torn down, leaving a gaping hole along the Surfside waterfront.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology is investigating the cause of the collapse, a process that is expected to take years. Champlain South had a long history of maintenance issues and questions were raised about the quality of its original construction and inspections in the early 1980s.