Judge approves $1 billion settlement as Surfside marks anniversary of deadly collapse

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Image from the Miami Dade Fire Department Twitter feed

Florida Construction News staff writer

A judge gave final approval last week to a $1 billion settlement for victims of the Champlain Tower’s collapse that killed 98 people one year ago.

The decision by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman came a day before the one-year anniversary of the disaster in Surfside and the fund will be distributed to people who lost family members in the collapse of the 12-story building, as well as those who suffered physical or mental injuries.

Governor Ron DeSantis attended a memorial ceremony at the site June 24 and announced $1 million to construct a memorial in the victims’ honor and designated a portion of Collins Avenue in Surfside as “98 Points of Light Road.”

“The collapse of Champlain Towers one year ago was an unimaginable tragedy, and for the family and friends of those whose lives were lost and for those whose homes were destroyed, the pain and horror we all experienced as we watched the smoke billow from the rubble has not faded,” Desantis said at the site.

“By allocating $1 million for a memorial and renaming this section of road, we will honor the memory of the victims and the heroic actions of our first responders.”

On the eve of the one-year anniversary, a judge approved a tentative settlement reached last month between several parties. It prevents the claims from going to trial and will be awarded to survivors, families of deceased victims and owners of damaged property.

“On this solemn day, we remember those we lost one year ago to the Surfside tragedy,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “We offer prayers of peace and compassion to their families, and, to the first responders who led search and rescue efforts with great courage, we thank you. The Surfside Community is resilient. Florida is resilient.”

In the Freedom First Budget signed earlier this month, $1 million was appropriated to the Department of State for the Champlain Towers South Memorial. Additionally, today Governor DeSantis signed House Bill 1469, which designates a portion of Collins in front of the former site of Champlain Towers South as “98 Points of Light Road” to commemorate the 98 victims of the tragic collapse.

In May, Governor DeSantis signed Senate Bill 4-D to address condo safety shortfalls revealed by the Champlain Towers collapse by requiring inspections for all condominiums and cooperative buildings that are three stories or higher. For buildings within three miles of the coast, Phase 1 inspections must occur 25 years after initial occupancy and every 10 years after. For all other buildings, Phase 1 inspections must occur 30 years after initial occupancy and every 10 years after. Also, if a Phase 1 inspection reveals substantial structural deterioration, a more intensive Phase 2 inspection is required.

The Bill also:

  • Requires condominiums and cooperatives to conduct structural integrity reserve studies for buildings three stories or higher to ensure the funding necessary for future structural repairs is available and prohibits waiver of funding for certain structural reserves.
  • Increases transparency by requiring all structural inspections reports and reserve studies to be part of the associations’ official record and must be provided to potential purchasers of a unit.

“Champlain Towers South was more than a place of residence, it was a microcosm of our South Florida community,” said Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez. “Everything changed in our state that day and yet we found a way to call upon values that we share — community, compassion, perseverance, and resilience. One year later, we are united and stronger because this tragedy could never shake our faith in one another and our community. May the memory of those 98 beautiful souls always be a blessing.”

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