A Florida judge has given initial approval to a settlement of more than 1 billion dollars (£791 million) to families who lost loved ones in the collapse last year of a Florida beachfront complex in which 98 people died.
The quick settlement of the unprecedented collapse of the 12-storey Champlain Towers South building in the early hours of June 24 2021 could potentially avoid years of court battles.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman, who is overseeing the lawsuits filed after the collapse, said during a hearing held remotely it was the best possible outcome given the loss of life and property in the disaster.
“It is a great result,” Mr Hanzman said before giving preliminary approval to the agreement. “This was a very contested deal.”
Rachel Furst, representing victim families, said the agreement also means defendants — insurance companies, developers, the city of Surfside and others — will have “complete peace” that they will not be sued again.
“This was heavily negotiated,” Ms Furst said. “We believe this is an outstanding settlement.”
Families of victims will have to file claims, as the money will not be split evenly. The aim is to begin distributing money by September.
The money comes from several sources, including insurance companies, engineering companies and a luxury condominium that had recently been built next door.
None of the parties are admitting wrongdoing.
Only three survivors were found despite around-the-clock efforts by rescuers who dug through a 40-foot high pile of rubble for two weeks.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology is investigating the cause of the collapse. Champlain South had a long history of maintenance problems and questions have been raised about the quality of its original construction and inspections in the early 1980s.