Florida Champlain Towers South Condo Collapse Settlement Reached, Exceeds $1 Billion

Lawyers for families who lost relatives in last year’s Florida condominium tower collapse that killed 98 people reached a $1.02 billion settlement Friday, providing a quick resolution to lawsuits that could have dragged on for years.

The agreement to end litigation over the Champlain Towers South tragedy awaits approval from Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman, but that should be just a formality.

Lawyers had previously announced in court a tentative settlement that families whose relatives were killed or injured in the 12-story tower collapse in Surfside would split nearly $1 billion, and parties on both sides of the lawsuit filed a motion Friday committing to a $1.02 billion settlement fund. In addition, almost $100 million will be distributed among those who lost their properties in the collapse.

The families of the victims will have to file claims, as the money will not be divided equally. The goal is to start distributing money in September.

The money comes from various sources, including insurance companies, engineering firms and a luxury condominium that had recently been built next door. Neither party admits irregularities. A billionaire developer from Dubai is set to buy the 1.8-acre beachside site for $120 million, which will contribute to the deal.

The settlement to end the lawsuit over the Champlain Towers South tragedy awaits the approval of Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman.
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File

The attorneys’ fees will be determined by the judge, but they are expected to be a fraction of what third-party attorneys normally earn. Cases like this typically take three years or more to settle, let alone go to trial.

In their motion for “preliminary approval of the class action settlement,” attorneys for the plaintiffs and defendants described the collapse at Surfside as a “‘black swan’ event that devastated this community,” saying they were “proud having accepted this Court’s challenge to provide relief to the class of victims before the first anniversary of the collapse.”

Most of Champlain Towers South suddenly collapsed around 1:20 a.m. on June 24 while most of its residents were asleep. Only three people survived the initial collapse.

No other survivors were found despite the continued efforts of rescuers who excavated a 40-foot-high pile of debris for two weeks. Another three dozen people managed to escape from the part of the building that was left standing. All 135 units were eventually demolished, leaving a gaping hole along Surfside Beach.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is investigating the cause of the collapse, a process expected to take years. Champlain South had a long history of maintenance problems, and questions were raised about the quality of its original construction and inspections in the early 1980s.

The collapse brought new scrutiny to the safety of skyscrapers across the state, especially in vulnerable coastal areas. At the time, Miami-Dade and neighboring Broward counties were the only ones of Florida’s 67 counties that required buildings to recertify their safety after 40 years.

A large banner highlights the names of the 98 people killed at the site of the Champlain Towers South condominium building in Surfside, Florida, on May 12, 2022.
A large banner highlights the names of the 98 people killed at the site of the Champlain Towers South condominium building in Surfside, Florida, on May 12, 2022.
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New legislation passed by the Legislature this week in a special session and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis will require those certifications statewide, much earlier in the building’s lifespan.

Recertification will be required after 30 years, or 25 years if the building is within 3 miles of the coast, and every 10 years thereafter. Champlain Towers South was 40 years old and its condominium association had been struggling to comply at the time of the collapse.

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