Settlement in Surfside Condo Collapse Now .04B

Settlement in Surfside Condo Collapse Now $1.04B

The lot where the Champlain Towers South once stood (Getty)

Families of those who lost loved ones in the Surfside condo collapse are now poised to get $1.04 billion, while the payout to unit owners has also swelled.

Condo owners are now in line for a $96 million settlement, up from their original $83 million payout, and the payout to the families of those who died is up over $40 million from the previous nearly $1 billion settlement, it was announced in court on Tuesday.

The higher amount for unit owners, considered the economic loss class, comes after roughly 50 owners requested a boost in their payout following the much larger settlement reached for the families of victims.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman said during the hearing that he would raise the owners’ payout, conditioned on the sale of the site and on the unit owners fully cooperating with the signing of all documents needed to bring the case to a close. But Hanzman was clear that it marks the final increase for unit owners. A motion for the $96 million settlement and a court order will come next.

Harley Tropin, one of the lead attorneys in the lawsuit filed against several parties over the collapse, said the $1.04 billion resulted from additional claims that went through mediation.

Tropin asked the judge for more time to submit the settlement to the court. Hanzman agreed to give attorneys until noon on Friday. If the parties can’t come to an agreement by then, the judge plans to set an evidentiary hearing for June 1.

Attorney Michael Goldberg, the court-appointed receiver for the condo association, called the request to raise the unit owners’ settlement “reasonable.” The extra funds would come from the expected $120 million land sale and $30 million in property insurance.

The $96 million represents the appraised value of the property. The judge and other attorneys acknowledged that at the time the $83 million payout was announced, it was unclear if any additional settlements would occur.

“The wrongful death people have cooperated. They’ve agreed in an act of benevolence, and in my view, compassion, to increase the amount to unit owners,” Hanzman said. “Some might say they’re at fault here, but I believe in many ways they’re victimized by this, traumatized by this.”

The amount is less than the $105 million settlement Gonzalo Dorta, an attorney for the unit owners, requested.

“We perfectly understand that a loss of life is something that is not compensable, notwithstanding that this system has to provide some sort of remedy,” Dorta said in court.

Judd Rosen, the attorney for the wrongful death class, pushed back on an increased payout to unit owners.

“I don’t blame the unit owners or their attorneys for seeking more money when they hear about a $1 billion settlement,” he said. “Whether the wrongful death cases settle for $1 billion or $5 billion does not change the fact that the $83 million payment is fair.”

The higher settlements mark another milestone in the litigation over the collapse of Champlain Towers South last year that killed 98 people. The case has largely focused on maximizing the payouts to the victims.

The unit owners’ settlement exempts them from any potential lawsuits that could hold them liable for the collapse under a state law. The payouts to individual unit owners will be based on their percentage ownership of the building under the condo declaration.

Contributors to the roughly $1.04 billion settlement include Champlain’s security company, Securitas USA, which provided guard services and operated safety systems, with the largest payment of $500 million, the Miami Herald reported.

The second-largest payment is $400 million, expected to come from the insurers for Eighty Seven Park’s Terra-led development team. The construction of Eighty Seven Park allegedly contributed to the collapse, though the development team has denied any wrongdoing.

Others included in the settlement are Morabito Consultants, Champlain’s engineer for the building’s 40-year recertification; and Becker & Poliakoff, the condo association’s law firm.
The town of Surfside, which was not named as a defendant, also agreed to a $2 million payout from its insurer.

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