Surfside condo collapse

Settlement Pool for Surfside Condo Collapse Victims Grows by $55.6 Million

Insurers for the law firm and engineer hired by Champlain Towers South and for the structural engineer for an adjacent condominium agreed to pay settlements, rather than risk trial

NBC Universal, Inc.

The pool of money to be shared among victims of the Champlain Towers South condominium collapse in Surfside and their families is growing by $55.6 million.

That’s the amount the condo association's law firm and engineer, as well as the engineer of an adjacent condo, have agreed to pay to settle all claims, according to a motion filed Tuesday afternoon in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

That brings the total pool of settlements and proceeds so far to nearly $226 million: the $55.6 million just revealed, plus more than $50 million from insurers of the CTS condo association itself, and a minimum $120 million – the opening bid – expected from an auction of the oceanfront lot late next month.

The condo association’s law firm, Becker and Poliakoff, agreed to pay $31 million. Morabito Consultants, the engineering firm it hired to oversee its 40-year recertification, will contribute $16 million. And DeSimone Consulting Engineers, which oversaw construction of the 87 Park condo just to the south of CTS, will pay $8.55 million, according to the just-filed motion.

“We are quite satisfied with these settlements and the tens of millions of dollars that will go to the benefit of these families that have suffered such enormous losses," said Stuart Grossman, one of attorneys involved in the mediations that produced the settlements.

Under an allocation agreement NBC 6 first reported two weeks ago, $83 million will go to those who lost their homes in the collapse, if Judge Michael Hanzman signs off on that agreement.

The rest, minus costs, will pay wrongful death and personal injury claims, though the judge concedes it will not be enough.

“We got probably close to a billion dollars of claims here. We know we're going to have a limited fund. Everybody is going to get less than they want or what they deserve legally,” Hanzman said at a court hearing nearly two weeks ago.

The June 24 collapse of the 12-story beachfront condo killed 98 people.

A Florida grand jury has issued a lengthy list of recommendations aimed at preventing another condominium collapse like the one that killed 98 people in June. NBC 6's Ryan Nelson reports

The lawsuit accuses the association of failing for years to repair dangerous conditions uncovered by its engineer, Morabito Consultants.

And Morabito was accused of not sounding the alarm loud enough over the damage it did uncover, failing to warn that the building was unsafe.

The law firm, Becker, despite being sent the Morabito report citing “major structural damage” in 2018, “failed to advise … (the association) to adequately address the extreme risks,” the lawsuit claims.

The settlements now allow lawyers for the victims to focus more next door, on the developers, builder, architect and others involved in the construction of 87 Park.

The lawsuit alleges construction there between 2016 and 2020 caused vibrations and other impacts that damaged Champlain Towers South, contributing to the collapse.

The 87 Park defendants have denied they are to blame.

DeSimone was the first of them to agree to settle.

On Monday, others associated with 87 Park, including that condominium's association, were added to the lawsuit as defendants.

Both Becker and Morabito said they were pleased their insurers agreed to settle.

Morabito denied it was in any way to blame, but said "the families who have suffered from this tragedy deserve compensation so that they may focus on healing."

In a statement Tuesday to NBC 6, Becker said it “continues to deny that it is in any way responsible for the collapse… (and) this settlement is not a finding of fault against Becker…. We are pleased this matter was quickly resolved and sincerely hope the insurance settlement will bring some relief to those impacted by this terrible tragedy."

A request for comment from DeSimone’s managing principal in Miami has so far gone unanswered.

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