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Florida condo collapse victims to get nearly $1 billion

May 12, 2022

A total of 98 people were killed last year when a beachfront condo in Florida collapsed. The tragedy sparked numerous investigations and calls for more vigorous safety inspections.

In this July 2021 file photo, police boats are scene in front of the partially collapsed Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside, Florida
Search and rescue crews spent weeks combing through the rubble after the Champlain Towers South building collapsed in June 2021Image: Mark Humphrey/AP/picture alliance

A class-action lawsuit brought by survivors and the families of those who died in a Florida condominium collapse secured a settlement of at least $997 million (€948 million), lawyers announced on Wednesday.

The disaster took place in June 2021 at Champlain Towers South, located in the town of Surfside north of Miami Beach. Part of the building collapsed while residents were sleeping inside, burying victims under tons of rubble.

Settlement still to be approved

The nearly $1 billion settlement was announced during a hearing at a Miami-Dade Circuit court.

"Although no amount of money will ever be enough to compensate them, we hope the closing of the legal chapter of this catastrophe will bring the victims some measure of solace," said Harley Tropin, the plaintiffs' lawyer who presented the settlement deal.

The settlement is still pending final approval.

The suit was brought against several defendants — including insurance companies and the developers of a building next to the condo that collapsed.

Search and rescue teams comb through the debris of the Champlain Tower South complex
The disaster prompted calls for better inspections and safety oversight for high-rise buildings in the southern US stateImage: Carl Juste/Miami Herald/AP Photo/picture alliance

Lawyers argued that the vibrations from construction work next to Champlain Towers South contributed to the condominium's collapse.

A final report on the causes of the disaster has not yet been released, although initial findings showed some of the building's structure was degraded.

The judge in the case already approved an $83 million settlement in March, although this was to compensate the owners of the condominium units and not the families of those who died.

What happened during the collapse?

On the night of June 24, 2021, part of the 12-story building collapsed while dozens of residents were sleeping inside.

Only one teenager was found alive and rescued in the hours after the building came tumbling down.

In the days and weeks following the tragedy, search and rescue crews focused on recovering human remains from the mountain of rubble and debris. A total of 98 people died.

The disaster sparked state and federal investigations into the collapse of Champlain Towers South, which was first built in 1981. US President Joe Biden also traveled to the disaster site and spoke with victims' families.

Last October, a group of architects and engineers said the state of Florida should consider requiring multi-story buildings near the coast to have safety inspections every 20 years.

A few months later in December, a grand jury in Florida issued a list of recommendations to prevent future disasters, including more frequent inspections and improved waterproofing.

rs/dj (AFP, AP)