Surfside condo collapse victims to share nearly $1 billion in wrongful death claims settlement

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Victims of the 2021 Surfside condo tower collapse will share close to a billion dollars if a wrongful death claims settlement is confirmed by the court.

The Wall Street Journal reported on May 12 that defendants and victims have agreed to a $997 million settlement, which would resolve claims from family members of the 98 people who died when Champlain Towers South collapsed last June.

The Journal reported that defendants in the case included the building’s insurers, developers of a neighboring condo building, an engineering firm that warned of the tower’s structural issues before its collapse and others.

“The settlement is much higher than most lawyers initially expected,” the business publication reported. “The initial pool of insurance money to settle both claims for victims who lost their homes and those who lost family members was $50 million.”

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Condo plaintiffs have already settled their property-damage claims for about $83 million.

Circuit Court Judge Michael Hanzman in Miami had said he wanted the litigation to be resolved within a year, so the insurance proceeds could go to the victims rather than be gobbled up in legal fees from protracted litigation.

“It was as difficult a case as one gets,” Judge Hanzman said during the May 12 hearing. “For results like this to happen a lot of things have to break your way.”

The judge will have to approve the settlement for it to become final.

Plaintiff attorneys realized they would need to bring in a deep pocketed defendant if they could hope to reach the near-billion dollar level of compensation to resolve the damage for trauma, property loss and potential punitive damages if there was a jury trial.

Surviving residents and victims’ families sued the developers of the neighboring luxury condo, Eighty Seven Park, in November, alleging that the nearby construction destabilized the building and helped lead to the collapse, the Journal reported.

Attorneys didn’t disclose the breakdown of how much individual defendants were paying as part of the settlement.

Michael Thomas, a lawyer representing the development team associated with Eighty Seven Park, said the building’s development “in no way caused or contributed to the collapse of Champlain Towers South.”

“Hopefully, ending this litigation will help bring some closure to the survivors of this tragic event,” he said.

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