Families of victims of deadly Florida apartment collapse win nearly $1 billion interim settlement

Survivors and families of victims of last June’s condo collapse in Surfside, Fla., are reaching a nearly $1 billion interim settlement in their class action lawsuit, an attorney has said.

Attorney Harley S Tropin announced the $997 million ($1.4 billion) settlement during a hearing before Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Michael Hanzman.

Still pending final approval, the settlement was agreed with developers of an adjacent building, insurance companies and other defendants.

“Our customers are victims of a tragedy. If you lose a loved one, no sum of money [is enough]“, said Ms. Tropin. “But customers are happy with this recovery. Really happy.”

Earlier this year, Justice Hanzman approved an $83 million settlement to compensate people who suffered economic losses, such as condominium units and personal property.

A key question from the beginning has been how to allocate money from the sale of the property, insurance proceeds and damages from lawsuits between wrongful death cases and property claims.

The 12-story Champlain Towers South condominium partially collapsed in the early morning hours of June 24almost instantly destroying dozens of individual condominium units and burying the victims under tons of rubble.

Rescuers spent weeks carefully digging through mountains of rubble to find survivors and recover the remains of those who died.(AP: Miami Herald/Matias J. Ocner)

Rescuers spent weeks carefully digging up mountains of concretefirst to find survivors and, later, to recover the remains of those who died.

About 10 days after the initial collapse, demolition crews used explosives to bring down the remaining part of the building, to allow searchers access to additional areas where survivors might have been located.

A total of 98 people were killed.

The tragedy — in the town of Surfside, just north of Miami Beach — sparked lawsuits from victims, families and condo owners, and sparked state and federal investigations.

In October, a coalition of engineers and architects said Florida should consider requiring high-rise buildings near the coast to undergo safety inspections every 20 years.

A woman wipes tears from her face as she gazes along a chain-link fence adorned with flowers and pictures laid out in a vigil.
Surfside Wall of Hope and temporary memorial honoring those who lost their lives.(AP: Miami Herald/Al Diaz)

And, in December, a Florida grand jury issued a long list of recommendations aimed at preventing another condominium collapse, including earlier and more frequent inspections and better sealing.

At the time of the collapse, Miami-Dade and Broward were the only two of the state’s 67 counties with condominium recertification programs.

The main lawsuit – filed on behalf of the victims, survivors and family members of Champlain Towers South – alleges that work on the adjacent tower in Eighty Seven Park damaged and destabilized the Champlain Towers building, which needed repairs major structures.

Belongings are seen amid debris hanging from the remains of apartments in Miami
The condo was built in 1981 and was in the middle of its 40-year structural review when it partially collapsed.(PA: Mark Humphrey)

Investigators find evidence of extensive corrosion and other issues

The Champlain Towers were in the middle of their 40-year structural overhaul when they partially collapsed.

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