Surfside condo collapse victims and families will receive $150M in compensation initially, judge says

Scene Near Champlain Towers – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by Felix Mizioznikov

A Florida judge has announced that victims and families who suffered losses from the devastating condo collapse in Surfside, Florida will receive a minimum of $150 million to start.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hazman stated that the sum is a total of about $50 million in insurance on the Champlain Towers South building and at least $100 million in proceeds from the sale of the property where the towers once stood. 

“The court’s concern has always been the victims here,” the judge said, adding that the group includes visitors and renters, not just condo owners. “Their rights will be protected.”

The $150 million does not include any proceeds from the large number of lawsuits filed since the collapse on June 24 in Surfside, Florida, which killed at least 97 people. “Those lawsuits are being consolidated into a single class action that would cover all victims and family members if they choose,” the judge said.

“I have no doubt, no stone will be left unturned,” Hanzman said of the lawsuits.

Using DNA analysis, 97 victims have been identified so far. Officials have not announced an end to the recovery effort yet.

Meanwhile, the site of the tragedy has mostly been cleared away. The debris was moved from Surfside to an evidentiary collection site near the airport. Here, an even more thorough search will continue “with enormous care and diligence,” said Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

“The enormous pressure of the weight of the collapse and the passage of time also make it more challenging,” she said, adding that workers were still rummaging through the rubble for any remaining victims, as well as religious artifacts and personal property.

The rubble that will become key evidence is being held in a Miami-area warehouse, with the rest in vacant lots located nearby, said the receiver, attorney Michael Goldberg. All of that will be kept as possible evidence for other experts to review, he said.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), is the leader of a financial probe into the collapse. “It may take years for their report to become public,” Goldberg said of the NIST probe.

The building collapsed just three years after an engineer warned of serious structural issues that needed immediate attention. The structure was undergoing its 40-year recertification process when it came crashing down. Most of the repairs had yet to be started.

Several condo owners have different opinions about what to do with the site. Some say the site should be left as a memorial honoring those who died, while others want the entire condo rebuilt so that they could move back in. A third suggestion is to combine both of these ideas. 

Raysa Rodriguez, owner of a unit on the ninth floor, said she could not imagine going back to a place where so many of her friends passed away. 

“I personally would never set foot in a building. That’s a gravesite,” Rodriguez told the judge. “I wake up in the middle of the night thinking of everyone who perished.”

Oren Cytrynbaum, an attorney who is representing former Surfside condo owners, said it was extremely important to think creatively about the property sale, including whether or not requirements will be added such as a memorial for future developers. 

“It shouldn’t be a traditional land sale,” Cytrynbaum said. “We’re not on one path.”

However, Hanzman said it is important to do something immediately because victims and families need money to move forward and begin rebuilding their lives.

“This is not a case where we have time to let grass grow underneath it,” he said.

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