Miami Judge Approves $13M Increase to Property Loss Settlement for Champlain Towers South Unit Owners

Another $13 million will be added to the settlement for former condo owners and family members of those killed in the June 2021 Champlain Towers South collapse in Surfside. 

The money, now totaling $96 million, will be added to the $83 million property loss settlement that was approved in March.

Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Michael Hanzman approved the request in a hearing Tuesday morning after attorneys representing unit owners requested a compensation increase under the allocation settlement agreement. 

“It’s not being raised over $96 million,” said Hanzman in court.

The additional money will not come from the nearly $1 billion class-action settlement reached this month, but may come out of the $120 million from the property sale. The land will be sold to Dubai-based DAMAC Properties, since there were no competing bids for the auction by the May 20 deadline. The Surfside land at 8777 Collins Ave. spans ±1.88 acres or ±81,886 square feet.

Hanzman said he would like people to start filling out the claim forms by the end of the week.

“For the claims process, the court is going to hold hearings for those families who requested, and the court is going to set the value of the claims,” said Hanzman. 

About $50,000 per unit will go to unit owners, lessees or family members who claim emotional distress or harm, and were on or nearby the property at the time of the collapse and identify as class members. Guests, short-term tenants and other nonunit owners on or nearby the property on the night of the collapse are eligible to receive $10,000 per unit. 

The motion for preliminary approval and settlement agreement is due this Friday so that a class-action settlement fairness hearing date can be set. 

Buildings Don’t Weaken Overnight

According to Florida attorney Sean Domnick of Domnick, Cunningham & Whalen in Palm Beach Gardens, South Florida has a lot to be proud of in the resolution of the case. 

“It’s not that they’re just incredibly smart and competent as lawyers, we have great collegiality where lawyers from both sides respect each other and work together so well,” said Domnick. “Then you have a judiciary at the top of its game as well.”

Domnick said the settlement isn’t just about getting justice, it’s also about safety and making sure this doesn’t happen again. He said he believes the government needs to fulfill its oversight role to ensure safety.

“These buildings don’t get weakened overnight, it’s over time, and everything has a life cycle, especially when it’s been exposed to the saltwater and salt air,” said Domnick. “We need more robust rules that require the condominiums to, each year, set aside money to pay for things that they know they’ll need down the road.”

“Very little/ no concrete action has been taken to prevent that kind of scenario from recurring. A substantial factor stems from exceptions carved into the HOA/ COA/ co-op laws that enable the [associations] to waive their otherwise required reserve funding,” said Rothenberg in the post. ”The purpose of the reserve budgets is to ensure that associations have sufficient funding for anticipated major expenses once they become due. In the wake of the Chaplain Towers collapse, legislative amendments were proposed to address the waiver provisions but ultimately did not pass. Understandably, there is no easy solution, particularly in light of rising housing costs. But clearly, very important.”

Steven Winslow at Jubelirer, Pass & Intrieri in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, also weighed in and thinks the settlement is fantastic.

“I think the settlement is fantastic. While no amount of money is ever going to make the families whole, that sends a loud and clear message that it’s not OK to allow a condo building to decay to the point that residents lose their homes, their lives and/or the lives of their friends and family,” he said via LinkedIn.

The closing for the condominium collapse site is expected to be complete by the end of July. Hanzman has said he hopes that victims will be compensated by the fall of this year.

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