Surfside building collapse lawsuit delayed by a year

Surfside, Florida - Victims of the Surfside condo collapse will have to wait more than a year — until at least March 2023 — for a trial on their class-action lawsuit, the judge overseeing the case has ruled.

Search and rescue teams searched for weeks for bodies in the rubble at the site of the 12-story oceanfront Champlain Towers South Condo, after the building collapsed in June.
Search and rescue teams searched for weeks for bodies in the rubble at the site of the 12-story oceanfront Champlain Towers South Condo, after the building collapsed in June.  © IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

Judge Michael Hanzman, who has been trying to keep the case on a fast track, said he was disappointed that his original plan to schedule a trial for late summer would have to be delayed.

Lawyers argued that was not a realistic timeline given the pace of investigating the cause of the June 24th collapse that killed 98 people at Champlain Towers South, and complications in collecting evidence and depositions.

"That is six months later than I’d hoped for, and justice delayed is justice denied, for both victims and defendants," Hanzman said during a Zoom status hearing on Wednesday. "So you better get your experts going. This court is not working under any leisurely schedule."

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On another matter, a date of February 4 was set for an in-person mediation session to discuss how funds should be allocated to surviving property owners, the relatives of those who died, renters, and visitors who were in the 136-unit building when it partially collapsed at 1:22 AM.

Hanzman is counting on court-appointed mediator Bruce Greer to make progress in a dispute over how money should be divided.

At stake is at least $120 million for the sale of the property, $50 million in insurance coverage, and millions more in negligence claims against various defendants.

Design defects, construction shortcuts, poor maintenance, and deferred refurbishment by the condo association board and the building of a luxury condo next door are among the factors cited by engineers and lawyers who have examined how the 13-story tower fell.

"The last thing the court wants to do is adjudicate a dispute between victims who lost units and those who lost lives," Hanzman said.

The judge reiterated his goal of settling economic loss claims quickly so that those victims can be compensated, exit the class-action lawsuit, and "get on with their lives."

Cover photo: IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

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