Class action case involving nearly 100 claimants is settled for close to $1 billion.
On June 24, 2021, Champlain Towers South, a 136-unit oceanfront condo complex in Florida, suddenly collapsed without warning with many of the residents inside. This led to numerous injuries and fatalities. The portion of the complex that was left standing after the tragedy was then leveled in a controlled explosion that was meant to allow crews to continue their efforts to find missing residents.
Governor Ron DeSantis said at the time of the demo, “Concerns about the remaining part of the building left few options but demolition. Residents of the building who survived fled with whatever they had with them and had not been permitted to enter the teetering structure…I know there’s a lot of people who were able to get out, fortunately, who have things there. We’re very sensitive to that. But I don’t think that there’s any way you could let someone go back up into that building given the shape that it’s in now.”
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava added afterwards that the demolition was “executed exactly as planned and left officials optimistic about the safely sifting through the rubble. There is hope that there are voids that will allow us to continue the search and rescue operation.”
In fall 2021, once all was said and done, survivors and their families feared a legal a process called ‘subrogation’ in which insurance companies can essentially stop future payments to policyholders to reimburse themselves for losses. They voiced concerns over wanting reassurance that they’d be able to collect. Now, this month, they’ve gotten this reassurance as their class action lawsuit comes to a close and they’re set to receive a $1 billion settlement.
The terms of the deal were announced in Miami-Dade Circuit Court before Judge Michael Hanzman. Each of the 98 people who filed claims will receive their fair share of the funds, although the exact amount has yet to be determined.
“We have gotten $997 million in proposed settlements before you – and it could be a billion before the end of the week,” said Harley S. Tropin, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “We will be done. The money will be distributed. These victims will get some measure of relief.”
Hanzman said he originally expected far less to be paid out even though the attorneys had sought to collect $1 billion from the very start. The judge had initially called this “a longshot.” Most recently, he said, “The result was achieved, and the speed is beyond extraordinary. When this case first came in this court I told everyone this wouldn’t be business as usual. This was a tragedy of unspeakable proportions. If we didn’t have the right people handling this case, it would be a ten-year slog with tens of millions in attorneys’ fees.”
Plaintiffs settled with at least ten individuals and businesses, including the insurance companies of the security company for Champlain South, developers of the complex next door, engineers, architects, a law firm, and the condo’s association. The defendants included 8701 Collins Development, Terra Group, Terra World Investments, John Moriarty and Associates of Florida, NV5, DeSimone Consulting Engineers, Stantec Architecture, Morabito Consultants, the law firm Becker, and Champlain Towers South Condominium Association.