On Saturday, a Florida judge approved an initial settlement worth more than $1B for families that lost loved ones last year in the Florida condo building collapse. The condominium was responsible for 98 deaths.
The rapid settlement of the unusually collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South building, in the early hours of June 24, 2021 means that there will not be many years of court battles.
Judge Michael Hanzman of Miami-Dade Circuit, who oversees the lawsuits after the collapse, stated that it was the best outcome possible given the loss in life and property.
Hanzman stated that "it is a great outcome" before approving preliminary approval of the agreement. The agreement was officially announced on Friday. "This was a highly contested deal."
Rachel Furst is co-chairwoman of the attorney group representing victims families. She said that the agreement will also mean defendants, such as developers, insurance companies, and the city of Surfside, will have "complete privacy" and won't face any further lawsuits. Some people might opt out of the agreement and pursue their independent claims.
Furst stated that "This was heavily negociated." "We consider this an outstanding settlement."
The agreement stipulates that anyone involved directly in the settlement will have to file a notice stating their intention to withdraw from the agreement by June 16. On June 23, Judge Hanzman will hold a fairness hearing, which will allow any person objecting to the settlement's implementation to be heard.
Attorney Michael Goldberg is the court-appointed receiver in the case. He said that notice will be sent to all family members of the deceased, and will also be posted on Champlain Towers South's website.
Goldberg stated, "We will start immediately."
Family members who lost loved ones during the collapse are estimated to have spent about $1.02 trillion. Separately, the loss of property like furnishings, mementos and furniture in condos that were damaged will result in a total of $96 million.
Because the money won't be divided equally, victims' families will need to file claims. The goal is to distribute money by September.
There are many sources of the money, including engineering companies and insurance companies. The condo was also built right next to it. None of the involved parties have admitted to wrongdoing. Dubai's billionaire developer is expected to buy the 1 hectare (1 acre) beachside property for $120 million. This will contribute to the settlement.
Despite two weeks of continuous rescue efforts, only three survivors were found. Three dozen more people managed to escape the remaining portion of the building. Surfside's beachfront was left with a gaping hole after all 135 units were demolished.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is currently investigating the cause of the collapse. This process will likely take many years. Champlain South has a history of maintenance issues. Questions have been raised about its original construction quality and the inspections that were conducted in the 1980s.