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Surfside condo victims' families to get at least $150 million, judge says

Written by on July 21, 2021

A judge on Wednesday said families who suffered losses in the 12-story collapse of a South Florida condominium building will receive at least $150 million in initial compensation. 

The figure includes insurance on the Champlain Towers South building in Surfside. Expected proceeds from the sale of where the property once stood is also included. 

“The court’s concern has always been the victims here,” Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman said at a hearing. “Their rights will be protected.”

The figure does not count toward any proceeds from any of the numerous lawsuits filed since the June 24 collapse. Those lawsuits have consolidated into a class action. As of Wednesday, at least 97 people have died. 

CONDO COLLAPSE FIRST RESPONDERS, VICTIMS’ FAMILIES VISITED BY COMFORT DOGS

A receiver appointed by Hanzman to handle the Champlain Towers board’s finances said the site has been completely cleared of debris under the watchful eye of investigators from the National Institute of Standards and Technology — the agency leading a federal probe into the collapse.

A worker jumps off a large piece of rubble on the site of the Champlain Towers South collapse, in Surfside, Fla., on Monday. 

A worker jumps off a large piece of rubble on the site of the Champlain Towers South collapse, in Surfside, Fla., on Monday. 
(Jose A Iglesias/Miami Herald via AP)

Rubble considered key evidence is being stored in a Miami-area warehouse, with the rest in nearby vacant lots, said the receiver, attorney Michael Goldberg. All of that will be preserved as possible evidence for the lawsuits and for other experts to review, he said.

“It may take years for their report to become public,” Goldberg said of the NIST probe.

The building was undergoing its 40-year recertification process when it collapsed. The disaster came three years after engineers warned of serious structural issues that needed immediate attention. 

Residents of the building differ on what they want done at the site. Some want the structure rebuilt while others say the site should be left as a memorial to the victims. 

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

A sale of the site could fetch upwards of $110 million, according to court records. 

Hanzman noted that residents and families of the victims need to rebuild their lives. 

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

Meanwhile, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber has offered a tract of land for the construction of a Surfside memorial.

“All options will be considered,” the judge said, adding that any memorial must be paid for with public dollars. “It’s going to have to be funded by the general public, not these particular victims.”

The collapse has increased scrutiny of other buildings in the area leading to the evacuation of two high-rise buildings in Miami-Dade County and a third building evacuated following a partial roof collapse

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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