A settlement totaling more than $1 billion dollars for the victims of the 2021 condominium collapse in Surfside, Florida, has been reached.
More than two dozen defendants connected to the Champlain Towers South condominium complex, including insurance companies, real estate developers, engineers, contractors, and the town of Surfside, submitted a settlement agreement totaling $1,021,199,000, in a class-action lawsuit from victims of the collapse, the Miami Herald reported. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman gave his preliminary approval on Saturday after a final court hearing.
“It’s a great result,” Hanzman said during the hearing conducted via Zoom between lawyers for both sides of the suit, according to the Herald. “This agreement appears to be a very reasonable compromise of the claims.”
“This was a very contested deal,” Hanzman added, according to the Associated Press.
Rachel Furst, who served as the co-chair of the group of attorneys representing the families of the victims, said that the agreement would also give the defendants “complete peace” they would not be sued again. “This was heavily negotiated,” Furst said. “We believe this is an outstanding settlement.” Still, the AP noted that some of the victim’s families may opt out and pursue their own independent claims.
In a separate statement from the attorneys group, Furst and co-chair Harley Tropin praised the efforts of Judge Hanzman, as well as court-appointed mediator Bruce Greer and settlement receiver Michael Goldberg, for bringing the settlement together at a speed that impressed not only the judge, but the families.
“We are pleased to have finalized the settlements we reached with more than two dozen parties and their insurers,” Furst and Tropin wrote.“We are grateful to Judge Hanzman, who fast-tracked this case to get it resolved in record time. We also recognize the efforts of the receiver Michael Goldberg and the mediator Bruce Greer and all of the members of the plaintiffs steering committee who worked tirelessly on this matter.”
The largest share of the settlement, totaling about $517.5 million, will be paid by Securitas Security Services USA. The company was a security contractor for the building, hired to provide security guards and monitors, including an all-call alarm system for every resident in the building. Other plaintiffs included the developers of a neighboring high-rise condo complex, Eighty Seven Park, as well as that building’s engineers and architects. The developers of Eighty Seven Park were accused of causing damage to the Champlain South property during construction, the Herald reported. Those parties contributed an additional $400 million to the deal.
Morabito Consultants, who served as engineering consultants for the Champlain Towers South condo association, contributed some $16 million. Western Waterproofing Company of America provided $25 million, Concrete Protection & Restoration contributed $11 million, and the Becker Law Firm added $31 million. The town of Surfside added $2 million. The Herald noted that none of the plaintiffs admitted responsibility and most of the payments will be made through insurance coverage.
Hanzman is expected to give final approval to the settlement later this summer, after a “fairness hearing” on June 23 and a comment period. Families have until June 16th to opt out. Families will also have to file individual claims, as money will not be distributed evenly. The families will be notified immediately, and notices will go out on the Champlain Towers South website and in the Herald, the AP reported. Money is expected to be distributed beginning in September.
In the meantime, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) signed a law Wednesday that would require condominiums to be recertified after 30 years, or 25 years if the building is within 3 miles of the coast, and every 10 years after that. Champlain Towers South was going through the 40-year recertification process required by Miami-Dade County when it collapsed last year.