SURFSIDE, Florida (CW44 News At 10 | CNN) — On Thursday, the eve of the one-year anniversary of a catastrophic collapse of a condominium in Surfside, Florida, a judge approved a roughly $1 billion settlement for those affected by the disaster that killed 98 people.
The judge’s ruling finalizes a preliminary settlement reached last month between several parties and prevents the claims from going to trial. The settlement amount will be awarded to survivors, families of deceased victims and owners of damaged property.
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The collapse of most of the Champlain Towers South building on June 24, 2021 suddenly turned what used to be a thriving residential building into a devastating scene as residents were crushed or trapped under a huge pile of twisted metal and concrete.
It took search and recovery teams a month to find and identify all 98 victims, ranging in age from 1 to 92 years. The tragedy deeply affected a close-knit Jewish community in South Florida and families around the world, including Argentina, Paraguay and Colombia. In some cases, entire families were murdered.
An emotional scene unfolded in the Miami courtroom on Thursday as Miami-Dade County Circuit Court judge Michael Hanzman presided over a three-hour settlement hearing, according to Rachel Furst, a plaintiffs’ attorney who described the proceedings as “remarkable and moving”.
In addition to the affected families, the parties involved in the settlement include the condo association, the City of Surfside, and engineering, architectural, and other companies involved in the development and maintenance of the property and adjacent developments.
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The final agreement reflects the total amount of money available to victims, including payments from insurance claims and the projected multimillion-dollar land sale of the property where the tower once stood. Relatives of the victims can now submit claim forms to receive compensation from the Settlement Fund.
During the hearing, at least three plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit spoke out in favor of the settlement: a parent whose child was murdered, the spouse of a victim who died in the collapse and a person whose home was destroyed, Furst said.
When the preliminary agreement was reached last month, Hanzman praised the speed with which it was achieved as “extraordinary”.
“We are excited to give this recovery to the victims, which we believe is extremely meaningful and a big step in bringing them to an end from this terrible tragedy,” Harley Tropin, one of the plaintiffs’ lead attorneys, told CNN when the preliminary agreement was made. announced.
In March, Hanzman approved a separate settlement for condo owners whose homes had been destroyed, raising the total payout to $96 million in May.
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