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Nearly $1 billion tentative settlement in condo collapse

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – A nearly $1 billion preliminary settlement has been reached in a class action lawsuit filed by families of victims and survivors of last June’s Surfside, Fla., condo collapse, an attorney said Wednesday.

Harley S. Tropin announced the $997 million settlement during a hearing before Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Michael Hanzman. Pending final approval, the settlement involves developers of an adjacent building, insurance companies and other defendants.

“I’m shocked by this result – I think it’s fantastic,” said Hanzman. “This is a recovery far beyond what I expected.”

Earlier this year, Hanzman approved an $83 million settlement to compensate people who have suffered economic losses such as condominiums and personal property. A key question from the start has been how funds from the sale of the property, insurance proceeds and damages from legal proceedings will be allocated to wrongful death and property claims cases.

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The 12-story Champlain Towers South condominium partially collapsed in the early hours of June 24, almost instantly destroying dozens of individual condos and burying victims under tons of debris. Rescuers spent weeks carefully digging through mountains of concrete, first to find survivors and later to recover the remains of the deceased. Ten days after the initial collapse, demolition crews used explosives to demolish the remaining portion of the building to give searchers access to more areas that might have contained survivors. A total of 98 people were killed.

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The tragedy in the town of Surfside, north of Miami Beach, sparked lawsuits from victims, families and homeowners and prompted state and federal investigations. In October, a coalition of engineers and architects said the state of Florida should consider safety inspections of high-rise buildings near the coast every 20 years. And in December, a Florida grand jury issued a long list of recommendations aimed at preventing another condo collapse, including earlier and more frequent inspections and better sealing.

At the time of the collapse, Miami-Dade and Broward were the only two of the state’s 67 counties to have condominium recertification programs.

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The main lawsuit, filed on behalf of the victims and family members of Champlain Towers South, alleges that work on the adjacent Eighty Seven Park Tower damaged and destabilized the Champlain Towers building, which was in need of extensive structural repairs. Champlain Towers was in the midst of its 40-year structural review when it partially collapsed to the ground.

The video, released by a team of federal investigators, showed evidence of extensive corrosion and overfilled concrete rebar in the building.

Seven months after the collapse, areas in the underground parking lot of Champlain Towers South’s sister tower, Champlain Towers North, were given makeshift structural supports in what the building’s condominium board called “an abundance of caution.” The condominium was built in 1981 and has a nearly identical design to the Champlain Towers South.

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The little-known enclave of Surfside is a mix of older homes and condos resembling the collapsed tower built decades ago for the middle class and recently built luxury apartments that attract the wealthy. They include former first daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, who live about a block north of the collapsed apartment. The residents of Champlain Towers South were an international mix: South American immigrants, Orthodox Jews, and expatriate retirees.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/national/2022/05/11/lawyers-nearly-1b-tentative-settlement-in-condo-collapse/ Nearly $1 billion tentative settlement in condo collapse

Justin Scacco

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