Tentative settlement agreement reached for surviving victims, victims' families of Surfside building collapse – WPLG Local 10

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WEATHER ALERT
Christina Vazquez, Reporter
Published: 
Christina Vazquez, Reporter
SURFSIDE, Fla. – A tentative agreement has been reached between lawyers for victims of the Surfside building collapse.
The judge presiding over the litigation involving the Champlain Towers South collapse says the agreement filed with the court “passes muster with flying colors.”
The order grants the allocation agreement preliminarily approval. The agreement is between those who have a property claim and those who have a wrongful death or personal injury claim, and creates an $83 million “common fund” to compensate unit owners for their condominiums and contents, and in exchange, unit owners will be relieved from any liability for injury and wrongful death claims.
The judge added that unit owners may opt-out, but run the risk of “receiving nothing” for the value of their units.
“Put simply,” the judge writes, “upon acceptance of their proportionate share of the $83 million common fund, surviving unit owners will leave this case with no further liability except to any tenant or guest who may have occupied their particular unit at the time of the collapse.”
He said the same is true for families of deceased unit owners who accept their proportionate share of the $83 million. Their wrongful death claims, however, are unaffected, the judge stated by the agreement.
The judge stated in the order: “As anticipated, the victims of this tragedy are in disagreement over how these funds (and any future recoveries) should be divided…from the outset, the Court made clear its preference that those Unit Owners fortunate enough to have survived be compensated on agreed upon amount for their property, thereby allowing them to exit this case, secure new homes, and attempt to rebuild their lives.”
STAGGERED PAYMENTS:
That $83 million is broken down into $50 million from the first $100 million recovered from all sources and $33 million will be paid out of the first dollars recovered over $100 million.
“All other funds recovered will inure solely for the benefit of the wrongful death claimants,” the order states.
The court appointed Gonzalo Dorta, who represent clients who only have economic loss claims, “to lead the negotiations on behalf of surviving property owners” and Judd Rosen, who only represents clients with wrongful death injury, but no property claims, “to lead the negotiations on behalf of the wrongful death victims.”
“This Agreement, negotiated between competent and experienced counsel, with the assistance of a highly skilled mediator, and with the participation of victims in each affected class, possesses all the indicia of a reasonable compromise of competing claims,” the judge stated.
He added that “absent some defect being brought by the Court’s attention, it is highly likely to secure final approval.”
IN EXCHANGE—RELIEVED FROM LIABILITY:
“Each Unit Owner will be paid a proportionate share of this ‘Common Fund’ based upon their ownership share of the Condominium…After hearing from the parties, the Court may (or may not) reduce an owner’s recovery by any insurance payment received to compensate them for the value of their unit (not contents), and while the Agreement is silent on this point, the Unit Owners may also be required to pay – out of the aggregate $83 million ‘Common Fund’ – attorney’s fees and costs to compensate counsel for services performed solely on behalf of the economic loss subclass,” the order states.
The order explains that “upon receipt of their proportionate payment, Unit Owners will be relieved from any liability for injury/wrongful death claims, and will have been deemed to have satisfied the assessment being made by the Receiver pursuant to the agreement; an assessment the Receiver believes is authorized” by Florida Statute 718.199. http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/.
NEXT STEPS:
The final approval hearing is scheduled for March 30 at 2 p.m. in Courtroom 9-1 of the Miami Dade County Children’s Courthouse, at 155 NW 3rd St.
In his order the judge indicated that “any objections to the allocation agreement ‘must be made in writing and filed with the Court no later than March 23, 2022, with service upon all counsel of record. No untimely objections will be entertained. Any party may (but is not obligated to) file a written response to any objection(s) by the close of business on March 28.”
If the agreement receives final approval, “any Unit Owner wishing to forego their rights as provided for by the settlement will have 10 days after the Court enters its Final Approval Order to exercise their right to opt-out,” the order states.
THE FULL AGREEMENT CAN BE VIEWED BELOW:
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Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."
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