Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Florida

Settlement in deadly Surfside collapse nears $1 billion

The final amount could grow. Yet to be decided is how much each victim or their survivors will receive.
Rescue workers work in the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo in Surfside, Fla., in this June 25, 2021 photo. Video released by a team of federal investigators shows more evidence of extensive corrosion and overcrowded concrete reinforcement in a Miami-area condominium that collapsed in June, killing 98 people.
Rescue workers work in the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo in Surfside, Fla., in this June 25, 2021 photo. Video released by a team of federal investigators shows more evidence of extensive corrosion and overcrowded concrete reinforcement in a Miami-area condominium that collapsed in June, killing 98 people. [ GERALD HERBERT | AP ]
Published May 11|Updated May 12

In a surprisingly swift resolution of the Champlain Towers South class-action lawsuit, relatives of victims and survivors of the Surfside condo collapse have reached a settlement that will pay them nearly $1 billion, a state court judge was told Wednesday.

The comprehensive settlement announced in Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Michael Hanzman’s courtroom effectively closes the litigation phase of the case. Still to be decided is the share survivors and family members of the 98 victims will receive.

“We have gotten $997 million in proposed settlements before you — and it could be a billion before the end of the week,” said Harley S. Tropin, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs. “We will be done. The money will be distributed. These victims will get some measure of relief.”

Related: SPECIAL REPORT: Seven minutes to collapse

Hanzman hoped to have the case resolved before the one-year anniversary of the collapse of the 136-unit oceanfront building in Surfside that fell at 1:22 a.m. on June 24.

“The result achieved and the speed is beyond extraordinary,” Hanzman said. “When this case first came in this court I told everyone this wouldn’t be business as usual. This was a tragedy of unspeakable proportions. If we didn’t have the right people handling this case it would be a 10-year slog with tens of millions in attorneys’ fees.”

Plaintiffs settled with 10 defendants, including developers of the condominium next door, engineers, a law firm, the Champlain South condo association and their insurers.

They include 8701 Collins Development, Terra Group, Terra World Investments, John Moriarty and Associations of Florida, NV5, DeSimone Consulting Engineers, Morabito Consultants, the town of Surfside, Becker and Poliakoff and Champlain Towers South Condominium Association.

The last major defendants to settle were the developer, Terra Group, and general contractor, John Moriarty and Associates, of the adjacent ultra-luxury, Renzo Piano-designed Eighty Seven Park condo, located just south of the Surfside municipal boundary bordering Miami Beach. They were accused in the litigation of destabilizing Champlain South during construction in 2016 when metal sheet piles were driven into the ground about 12 feet from the Surfside condo’s perimeter wall around the pool deck.

Judge Michael Hanzman gestures as he speak to attorneys in court on Wednesday as a settlement was reached for Surfside collapse victims.
Judge Michael Hanzman gestures as he speak to attorneys in court on Wednesday as a settlement was reached for Surfside collapse victims. [ JOSE A. IGLESIAS | Miami Herald ]

They will pay an undisclosed sum to the plaintiffs without admitting any negligence. Champlain South residents claimed the vibrations that rattled their building — knocking pictures off their walls and throwing one off a treadmill — played a role in the collapse. Five years later, the pool deck at Champlain South broke away from the structural wall near where the pile-driving occurred. Seven minutes after the deck caved in, half of the 12-story tower collapsed, killing 98 people inside.

Spend your days with Hayes

Spend your days with Hayes

Subscribe to our free Stephinitely newsletter

Columnist Stephanie Hayes will share thoughts, feelings and funny business with you every Monday.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

The Eighty Seven Park firms deny their work had anything to do with the collapse in 2021. They said the vibrations, which were measured and monitored, were too low to have caused “structural damage to any portion of Champlain Towers South.”

Hanzman said he wants to finalize the settlement agreement before the June 24 anniversary and distribute funds by the fall.

“The defendants faced a lot of exposure, whether they were liable or not,” he said. “We’ve taken a black swan case that we hope we will never see again and did the best we could to resolve it. But we know the value of these 98 death claims will exceed the recovery,” the judge said.

Three other major defendants in the Champlain Towers South collapse class-action lawsuit have agreed to settle with victims for a total of $55.55 million, all paid by their insurance firms. The law firm Becker, which represented Champlain South’s condo association before the deadly June 24 collapse, will pay $31 million, the filing states. Engineering firm Morabito Consultants, hired to inspect Champlain South for its 40-year recertification, will pay $16 million. And DeSimone Consulting Engineers, which served as the structural engineer for a luxury condo built just feet away from Champlain South called Eighty Seven Park, will pay $8.55 million.

Crews pick through the rubble left by the collapse of Champlain Towers South. Photo is from June 30, 2021.
Crews pick through the rubble left by the collapse of Champlain Towers South. Photo is from June 30, 2021. [ Miami-Dade Fire Rescue ]
Advertisement

This site no longer supports your current browser. Please use a modern and up-to-date browser version for the best experience.

Chrome Firefox Safari Edge