MIAMI — Families of the victims of the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Fla., that killed 98 people last year have reached a $997 million settlement to compensate them for their staggering losses of life and property.
The settlement, revealed at a court hearing on Wednesday and still pending final approval, includes insurance companies, developers of an adjacent building and other defendants in the extensive civil case. It comes six weeks before the one-year anniversary of the tragedy on June 24.
“I’m shocked by this result — I think it’s fantastic,” said Judge Michael A. Hanzman of the Circuit Court in Miami-Dade County. “This is a recovery that is far in excess of what I had anticipated.”
Before Wednesday’s surprise announcement, the judge had approved a far smaller settlement of $83 million to be split among condo unit owners for their property losses. No compensation had been determined for the families of the dead, leading to friction and raw, emotional court testimony at a March hearing pitting those who lost their homes against those who lost their loved ones.
The settlement grew exponentially after the developers of the adjacent luxury building, Eighty Seven Park, and a slew of contractors and consultants who had been sued or investigated by the survivors’ and victims’ lawyers signed on. The plaintiffs had argued that construction work at Eighty Seven Park damaged Champlain Towers South — an accusation that Eighty Seven Park’s developers and contractors denied.
The lawyers said the settlement could expand further, to more than $1 billion, if they reach an agreement with a remaining company. Among the companies that agreed to settle are the engineers who had inspected and begun to conduct work to address serious structural flaws in Champlain Towers South before the collapse.
Judge Hanzman, who has maintained an aggressive schedule throughout the case, said he would like to finalize the settlement before June 24 and compensate survivors and victims’ families by the fall.