A nearly $1 billion deal in the past year Shocking collapse of a condominium building in the Miami Beach area it was unexpectedly announced during a routine status conference in a Florida court Wednesday afternoon.
Lawyers involved in the class action lawsuit representing tenants of the Surfside oceanfront building announced a $997 million settlement has been reached.
Following the news, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman said he was “speechless.”
“This is incredible news,” the judge said.
“I am surprised by this result, I think it is fantastic,” the judge told the courtroom. “This is a recovery that far exceeds what I had anticipated.”
Litigation stemming from the catastrophic collapse in June 2021, in which 98 people died, was moving slowly as the one-year anniversary approached.
The 12-story residential building partially collapsed around 1:15 a.m. June 24 at the Champlain Towers South condominium in the coastal town of Surfside, about 6 miles north of Miami Beach. About 55 of the 136 units in the waterfront complex were destroyed, authorities said.
The remains of the last victim they were identified more than a month later, on July 26, following a massive search and rescue mission that turned into a recovery operation.
The slain victims ranged from young children to elderly couples, and included families, long-time Surfside residents and tourists staying in the building.
“Some of the victims may never recover from this loss and we know it,” Hanzman said in court.
The settlement will cover the families of those who died, as well as the survivors, according to lawyers on the case.
The judge said he wants the entire deal to be finalized before the first anniversary on June 24, with payments due in the fall. Motions for preliminary approval must be filed no later than one week from Wednesday.
“My goal was to do everything humanly possible to conclude this case before the first anniversary of the collapse,” he said.
All funds for victims will go through the receivership.
“Today is one of those days in a career that I think we’re going to look back on,” attorney Michael Goldberg, the court-appointed trustee who will oversee the payments, said in court.
One of the lead attorneys in the case, Judd Rosen, told ABC News that the settlement “represents the liability of many different players.”
“It’s the largest single-incident settlement in the history of the United States,” Rosen said. “The number itself carries significant responsibility for what happened.”
The plaintiffs in the class action argued that the poor construction and maintenance of Champlain Towers South became catastrophic with the development of a new luxury tower next door.
“CTS [Champlain Towers South] it was an old building that needed repairs and routine maintenance, but it wasn’t until excavation began and construction of the high-rise luxury condominium project next door, known as ‘Eighty-Seven Park’, that CTS was damaged and destabilized as well as being insecure,” the lawsuit said. “First, the developers of Eighty-Seven Park improperly obtained the right to build taller and bigger than they were originally entitled to, including by purchasing a public street just feet from the CTS foundation. They then conducted destructive excavation and site work dangerously close to CTS, tilted their project so that water poured into CTS and corroded its structural supports, and drove sheet piling 40 feet into the ground, causing tremors and vibrations at levels so high that cracked the tiles. and walls at CTS and shook the structure.”
The owners and insurers of Eighty-Seven Park had consistently denied any responsibility for the collapse.
The defendants named in the lawsuit included the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association and developers involved in the Eighty-Seven Park project.
Champlain Condominium Towers South was built in 1981. It was in the process of a county-mandated inspection for commercial and residential buildings 40 years after its construction when the building collapsed.
Following the collapse, Miami-Dade County inspected more than 500 buildings approaching their 40-year recertification deadline to identify any obvious structural issues.
This is a developing story. Please check for updates.