Surfside survivors and their families will finally get compensated for their losses.
Victims, mostly surviving family members of those who perished in Florida’s Surfside Condo collapse, are set to begin receiving each of their shares of the $1 billion settlement. Currently in private discussions with Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman, calculations will determine how much compensation each will receive. Nearing the end of a battle that began following the collapse last June, these discussions have been stirring up painful memories of the past while, at the same time, providing some solace that the legal battle will soon be over.
“Other than the immediate aftermath, when we were all waiting in agony, this phase will be the most painful, heartbreaking part of the entire ordeal,” said Pablo Rodriguez, a Miami attorney whose mother and grandmother died in the tragedy.
A portion of the calculation is being based on a victim’s age, career choice and expected lifetime earnings. Hanzman will also take a look at ongoing pain and suffering of the relatives of those once living in Champlain Towers South. Data reportedly shows that “victims range in age from 1 to 92. They include lawyers, doctors, accountants, engineers, actors, college students, retirees, a musician, a flight attendant, a Pilates instructor and a rabbi.” So, calculating as fair of a payout as possible is no small task. Hanzman is being helped by an accountant and a retired judge who is an expert in personal injury and wrongful death cases. The process is slated to be complete by the end of the month, and the results won’t be made public.
“The key for this case is consistency and fairness,” said South Florida attorney Michael Goldberg, appointed by Hanzman as the receiver for condo’s association and as a neutral party in the class-action case. “None of the victims are going to know what the others are getting.”
By keeping the payout amounts confidential, the judge and those who are assisting him are hoping that there won’t be ongoing conflicts that will only serve to further extend an already lengthy, painful process.
Attorney Rachel Furst, whose law firm Grossman Roth Yaffa Cohen is representing the relatives of 11 people who died, said, “The advantage of Hanzman doing double duty as both the judge and claims administrator is that he understands the nature of the tragedy and doesn’t have to start from scratch. He’s wearing a different hat in this process.” She added, “Florida’s wrongful death law compensates the living. The law does not assign a value to a life; instead, it compensates the survivors for their loss, which is their suffering and the support and services they’ve lost.”
Attorney Kenneth Feinberg, the special master, also stated, “Calculating what each victim has earned over a lifetime is not hard; the hard part is emotion.” Feinberg was tasked with helping to calculate payout amounts following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “What you find in these confidential hearings is that they don’t want to talk about money,” he said. “They want to vent about life and how unfair it is. Or they want to validate what they have lost. They want you to see what those murderers did to their angel.”
Those living in the portion of Champlain Towers South that did not collapse are still eligible to receive at least $50,000 for “trauma, psychological harm and physical injuries.” They continue to live with survivors’ guilt, posttraumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions caused by the event.