In a surprisingly quick resolution to the Champlain Towers South class action lawsuit, relatives of victims and survivors of the Surfside condo collapse have reached a settlement that will net them nearly $1 billion, a judge ruled Wednesday. state court.
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The global settlement announced in Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Michael Hanzman’s courtroom effectively closes the litigation phase of the case. Remains to be decided: the individual shares the plaintiffs, whose family members of the 98 people who died in the collapse, will receive.
“We got $997 million in proposed settlements before you — and it could be a billion before the end of the week,” said Harley S. Tropin, an attorney representing the plaintiffs. “We will be done. The money will be distributed. These victims will get some relief.
Hanzman hoped the case would be resolved before the one-year anniversary of the collapse of the 136-unit beachfront building in Surfside that fell at 1:22 a.m. on June 24. Although the judge said he expected much less, the lawyers had hoped to recover $1 billion. But both goals were considered “a long shot,” Hanzman said.
“The result and the speed are beyond amazing,” Hanzman said. “When this case came to this court, I told everyone it would not be business as usual. It was a tragedy of indescribable proportions. If we didn’t have the right people to handle this case, it would be a 10-year chore with tens of millions in attorneys’ fees.
The plaintiffs settled with at least 10 entities, including the insurers of the Champlain South security company, developers of the neighboring condominium, engineers, architects, a law firm and the association of co-owners of Champlain South.
They include 8701 Collins Development, Terra Group, Terra World Investments, John Moriarty and Associates of Florida, NV5, DeSimone Consulting Engineers, Stantec Architecture, Morabito Consultants, Becker Law Firm, and Champlain Towers South Condominium Association.
The Herald has learned a rough breakdown of the $997 million total. Various parties associated with the Eighty Seven Park condo adjacent to Champlain South have settled approximately $400 million. The parties associated with the Champlain South condo association represent approximately $100 million. The town of Surfside is content with a sum of a few million in the single digits. Securitas, the security company responsible for security systems at Champlain South that included smoke alarms and intercoms, paid the highest amount, in the range of $450 million to $500 million.
The last main defendants to settle were 8701 Collins Development and Terra Group, the developers, and John Moriarty and Associates, the general contractor of the nearby ultra-luxury condo Eighty Seven Park designed by Renzo Piano, located just south of the municipal border of Surfside. with Miami Beach. They were accused in the litigation of destabilizing Champlain South during the construction of Eighty Seven Park in 2016 when metal sheet piles were driven into the ground approximately 12 feet from the boundary wall of the Surfside condo around the terrace of the swimming pool.
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They will pay an undisclosed sum to plaintiffs without admitting any negligence. Residents of Champlain South said the vibrations caused by the pile driving shook their building – knocking pictures off their walls and throwing a resident off a treadmill. Five years later, the pool deck at Champlain South separated from the load-bearing wall near where the pile driving occurred. Seven minutes after the bridge collapsed, half of the 12-story tower collapsed.
The Eighty Seven Park companies deny their work had anything to do with the 2021 collapse. They said the vibrations, which were measured and monitored, were too low to have caused “structural damage to any part of the South Champlain Towers”.
“Our customers’ insurers have made the business decision to contribute to the global settlement of this litigation in order to resolve the claims against them and avoid the time, expense and inconvenience of litigation,” said Michael Thomas, attorney for 8701 Collins Development. “The participation of our customers in any eventual settlement is neither an admission of liability nor an acknowledgment of the validity of any of the plaintiffs’ claims. The design, layout and construction of Eighty Seven Park in no way caused or contributed to the collapse of the Champlain South Towers. Hopefully ending this litigation will help bring an end to the survivors of this tragic event. »
Hanzman said he wants to finalize the deal before the June 24 anniversary and distribute the funds by the fall.
“The defendants faced numerous exposures whether they were responsible or not,” he said. “We took a black swan case that we hope never to see again and did our best to resolve it. But we know that the value of those 98 death claims will exceed the recovery.
Champlain South needed structural repairs when it began its 40-year-old recertification, a mandatory safety check. He was starting renovations when the building fell.
Pablo Rodriguez, whose mother, Elena Blasser, and grandmother, Elena Chavez, were in Unit 1211 and did not survive the collapse, said the timing and amount of the settlement was better than he hadn’t foreseen it.
“It shortens what would have been years of painful litigation, but no amount of money makes it acceptable to any of us,” he said. “It’s still raw, I still wake up in the middle of the night with the video of the collapse in my mind and Mother’s Day was sad. And it’s very disheartening that the Florida legislature has done nothing about it. condominium security reforms Everyone promised, no one delivered.
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Pablo Langesfeld lost his daughter, Nicole, 26, and her husband, Luis Sadovnic, 28, in the collapse.
“Nothing in the world can cover the loss of my daughter. I will be heartbroken forever,” he said. “It’s not about the money. It’s about holding the culprits accountable so it doesn’t happen again.
Three of the main defendants had previously accepted payments totaling $55.55 million, all of which were covered by their insurers. The law firm Becker, which represented the association of co-owners of Champlain South, will pay 31 million dollars. Morabito Consultants, hired to inspect Champlain South for recertification, will pay $16 million. And DeSimone, a structural engineer for Eighty Seven Park, will pay $8.55 million. The condominium association’s insurance paid out $50 million.
The resale value of the Champlain South property has not been included in the total. The 1.8 acre parcel at 8777 Collins Ave. will be auctioned on May 24. Already, the opening bid is $120 million. This will bring the settlement to nearly $1.1 billion.
“Understanding that no amount of compensation can bring back loved ones, we are extremely proud to have achieved results that were simply not considered possible last summer, and to have delivered such a result in the time frame of time we got,” said Brad Sohn, who filed the first lawsuit related to the collapse.
Herald writer Jay Weaver contributed to this report.
This story was originally published May 11, 2022 4:20 p.m.