Settlements, more suits at Surfside

Dive Brief: 

  • In the last month, three settlements were reached in the class-action suit surrounding last June’s deadly collapse at the Champlain Towers South building near Miami, which killed 98 people. In addition, the families of victims and survivors filed suits against three other companies that worked on construction at the neighboring Eighty Seven Park condo.
  • Three defendants are paying a total of $55.55 million in the class-action lawsuit filed by the families of victims and survivors, according to CNN. Insurers for Becker & Poliakoff P.A., the law firm that represented Champlain Towers South’s condo association, and Morabito Consultants, the engineering firm that inspected CTS, will pay $31 million and $16 million, separately. 
  • Additionally, DeSimone Consulting Engineers, the structural engineer for the Eighty Seven Park building will pay $8.55 million. 

Dive Insight:

As DeSimone settled, the survivors and families of the victims at Champlain Towers South filed additional suits against the condo association at Eighty Seven Park and construction firms that worked on Eighty Seven Park, including Edmonton, Canada-based architecture firm Stantec, Hazleton, Pennsylvania-based vibration monitoring firm Geosonics and Oakland Park, Florida-based engineering firm Florida Civil, according to The Real Deal

A class-action complaint updated on Nov. 10 alleged that the towers were “badly damaged and destabilized” because of excavation and construction at the neighboring 18-story Eighty Seven Park condominium, according to court documents.

The suit, filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court on behalf of the collapse’s victims and their families, alleges that 8701 Collins Development ignored warnings about vibrations and other issues from residents of Champlain Towers South. Coconut Grove, Florida-based developer Terra Group and Terra World Investments established 8701 Collins Development to build the Eighty Seven Park condominium.

In December, law firm Greenberg Traurig, representing Terra Group, responded to Construction Dive with a background fact sheet claiming that the construction team at Eighty Seven Park did not cause any structural damage to CTS and that neither “their work or equipment was capable of damaging the reinforced concrete that failed.”

Problems next door

Suits stemming from construction next door are fairly common, according to Eric Ruzicka, a partner at Minneapolis-based law firm Dorsey & Whitney and one of the attorneys that represented a major engineering firm in lawsuits that resulted from the 2007 I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis. Ruzicka is not involved in any of the Surfside suits.

“It is more common in a commercial setting where you have density situations or in an urban setting where things are right next to each other,” Ruzicka told Multifamily Dive. “Something gets shifted in a way where water is coming off a building and going underneath the foundations in a different way or shedding in a different way.”

A spokesperson for Stantec said the company doesn’t discuss pending litigation, while Florida Civil and Geosonics didn’t respond to requests for comment.

In addition to settlements in the class action suit, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman approved a plan late last month for condo owners at Champlain Towers South to split $83 million from the sale of the beachfront land and insurance policies, according to USA Today. Compensation for the 98 deaths from the 136-unit building collapse is still to be determined.

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