A nearly $ 1 billion settlement in last year’s shocking collapse of an apartment building in the Miami Beach area was unexpectedly announced during a routine status conference in a Florida courtroom Wednesday afternoon.
Lawyers involved in the class action lawsuit representing tenants from the building by the sea in Surfside announced that a $ 997 million settlement had been reached.
Following the news, Miami-Dade Circuit judge Michael Hanzman said he was “speechless”.
“It’s incredible news,” the judge said.
“I am shocked by this result – I think it is fantastic,” the judge said in court. “This is an improvement that is far above what I expected.”[ads1];
Lawsuits stemming from the catastrophic collapse of June 2021, which killed 98 people, had been slow as the first anniversary approached.
The 12-story residential building partially collapsed around 1:15 a.m. on June 24 at the Champlain Towers South condominium in the beach town of Surfside, about 60 miles north of Miami Beach. About 55 of the complex’s 136 units were destroyed, authorities said.
The last victim’s remains were identified more than a month later, on July 26, following a massive search and rescue mission that became a recovery operation.
The victims killed ranged from young children to elderly couples, and included families, longtime Surfside residents and tourists living in the building.
“Some of the victims can never recover from this loss, and we know that,” Hanzman said in court.
The settlement will cover the families of those who died as well as survivors, according to lawyers in the case.
The judge said he wants the entire settlement to be completed by the one-year anniversary on June 24, with payments by the fall. Proposals for preliminary approval will expire no later than one week from Wednesday.
“My goal was to do everything humanly possible to end this case by the one-year anniversary of the collapse,” he said.
All funds for the victims will go through the housing association.
“Today is one of those days in a career that I think we’ll look back on,” said attorney Michael Goldberg, the court-appointed recipient who will oversee the payments, in court.
One of the main lawyers in the case, Judd Rosen, told ABC News that the settlement “represents responsibility from many different actors.”
“This is the largest settlement from a single incident in U.S. history,” Rosen said. “The number itself implies significant responsibility for what happened.”
The plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit claimed that the poor construction and maintenance of Champlain Towers South was catastrophic with the development of a new luxury tower next door.
“CTS [Champlain Towers South] was an older building in need of routine repairs and maintenance, but it was not until the excavation and construction of the luxurious high-rise project next door, known as the ‘Eighty-Seven Park’, that the CTS was so badly damaged and destabilized as to be unsafe. “First of all, the developers of Eighty-Seven Park erroneously obtained the right to build taller and larger than the original court, including by buying a public street just a few meters from the CTS’s foundation. They then carried out destructive excavation and construction work dangerously close to the CTS, tilting the project so that water flowed into the CTS and corroding its structural support, driving sheet piles 40 feet into the ground, causing tremors and vibrations at such high levels that they cracked tiles. and walls at CTS and shook the structure. “
Owners and insurance companies of Eighty-Seven Park had consistently denied any responsibility for the collapse.
Defendants mentioned in the lawsuit included the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association and developers involved in the Eighty-Seven Park project.
The Champlain Condominium Towers South was built in 1981. It was undergoing a county mandate inspection for commercial buildings and residential buildings 40 years after they were built when the building collapsed.
In the wake of the collapse, Miami-Dade County inspected more than 500 buildings approaching the 40-year recertification deadline to identify obvious structural concerns.
This is a development story. Please check back for updates.