Surfside apartment collapse victims reach $997 million

Miami – Victims’ families The collapse of the South Champlain Towers In Surfside, Florida, which claimed 98 lives last year, it reached a $997 million settlement to compensate them for their heavy loss of life.

The settlement, which was revealed in a court hearing on Wednesday and is still awaiting final approval, involves insurers, developers of an adjacent building and other defendants in the wide-ranging civil case. It comes six weeks before the first anniversary of The tragedy of June 24.

Judge Michael A. Hansmann of Miami-Dade County Circuit Court: “This result shocked me – I think it’s fantastic.” “This is a recovery far beyond what I expected.”

Before the surprise announcement on Wednesday, a judge approved a much smaller settlement of $83 million to split among condominium owners for their property losses. No compensation has been set for the families of the dead, who will now receive $997 million.

“That’s a lot of money, but he’s never going to get Jonah’s mother back,” said Neil Handler, whose son was one of the few people rescued alive from the rubble. Jonah Handler’s mother, Stacey Fang, 54, was the first identified victim of the meltdown.

Mr Handler said of his son, now 16, who suffered several broken bones in his back.

How the money will be divided among the relatives of the 98 victims will be determined in the coming weeks. The National Institute of Standards and Technology is still investigating why the 13-story, 135-unit building partially collapsed in the middle of the night, a review that could take years.

The difference in compensation for the families of victims, who lost loved ones, and survivors, who lost housing units, led to significant friction between the groups and to emotionally harsh court testimony in a March hearing that pitted the two sides against each other.

“We know we didn’t cause that crash,” Oren Sitterenbaum, owner of the unit, said at the time. “A billion dollars, if you’re on the other side, it won’t bring back these loved ones.”

The money for the $83 million will come to unit owners from insurance companies in Champlain Towers South and sell land Where the building used to stand at 8777 Collins Ave. Nearly two acres of the beachfront property is expected to sell soon, after auction, for at least $120 million.

As part of the previous settlement, apartment owners were relieved of any liability for negligent maintenance of the building. Under Florida law, they could have been sued for up to the value of their units.

At first, any settlement seemed unlikely. The families of some of the victims argued that all money recovered through the lawsuit should go to them, not to the unit owners. Judge Hansmann disagreed, saying that unit owners should rebuild their lives from scratch after their heavy economic losses. The part of the building that did not collapse was demolished In the days following the tragedy, with the unit owners unable to return.

Judge Hansmann approved the $83 million settlement in March, without guaranteeing that more money would follow to the victims’ families — and the possibility of a drawn-out, drawn-out trial that could drag on for years, as many class cases do.

The much larger settlement for the victims’ families announced Wednesday came after the developers of the adjacent luxury building, Eighty Seven Park, and a slew of contractors and consultants were signed into law by the victims’ attorneys. Prosecutors argued that construction work on Eighty Seven Park damaged the Champlain South Towers – an accusation that Eighty Seven Park’s developers and contractors denied.

Lawyers said the settlement for the victims’ families could expand further, to about $1 billion, if they reach an agreement with a remaining company. Among the companies that agreed to the settlement are engineers who Have searched and started doing business To address serious structural defects in the South Champlain Towers prior to collapse.

The companies will not admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement. But Judd J. Rosen, an attorney for homeless families of victims, said the settlement numbers “speak for themselves.”

“It is a step in the right direction towards their sense of dignity and accountability for what happened,” he said of the families of the victims. “No billion is paid without a sense of accountability for this loss.”

In all, the total amount recovered for victims’ families and survivors could exceed $1.1 billion.

Judge Hansmann said he would like to finish the settlement before June 24 and compensate survivors and victims’ families by the fall.

Susana Alvarez, 62, a survivor of the avalanche, said she and other unit owners had not received any information about when they would actually receive the money.

“Many of us need to buy homes; we literally live with relatives,” she said, adding that she just wanted to move on from that horrible day.

She said, “I’m alive, thank God.” “We just want to be at peace.”

Pablo Rodriguez, who lost his mother, Elena Blaser, 64, and grandmother, Elena Chavez, 88, in the meltdown, said he had mixed feelings about the settlement.

“I think it’s the best outcome we can hope for given the situation,” said Mr. Rodriguez, although “there’s really no amount of money that would make everything OK.”

Nearly a year later, Mr. Rodriguez, 41, said the death of his loved ones still seemed unrealistic and agonizing.

“The video clip that shows the building falling, still wakes me up at night,” he said.