MIAMI – So many lawsuits are being filed in the wake of the Surfside condo collapse that it threatens to overwhelm the court system.
To avoid that, the courthouse in Miami is organizing all the cases to be heard by one judge in one courtroom.
A parade of attorneys lined up Wednesday morning to introduce themselves to Judge Michael Hanzman of the 11th Judicial Circuit Court’s civil division — all of them volunteering to take on Champlain Towers South condo collapse cases without getting paid.
“This is kind of an unprecedented kind of thing where everybody’s really on the same page just to try and help what we can do,” said Brad Sohn, partner at the Brad Sohn Law Firm.
Some of the lawyers have already been hired to represent families of the people who were killed, residents who were displaced when half the condo building collapsed, or the residents displaced when the other half of the building was demolished.
“The court obviously needs to be a gatekeeper and administer things and ensure that obviously there aren’t 100 separate lawsuits in 100 different divisions of this courthouse and that there are separate judges doing separate things,” said Jorge Silva, partner at Silva & Silva. “So it all needs to be streamlined and that’s a beautiful job that Judge Hanzman is doing.”
The judge asked the lawyers to appoint a member amongst themselves to lead the team that will fight to get the victims compensated.
“I got the best of the Bar here, but not everybody can have a leadership role and the faster you all realize that and try to reach some consensus, the faster we can move this along and try to get the victims some compensation,” Hanzman said.
The judge says the building’s $48 million in total insurance coverage likely won’t be enough to cover damages for all the victims, so the court-appointed receiver is working to identify all the people who may be liable for the catastrophe, including the contractors who worked on Champlain Towers South within the past 10 years, and the construction company that worked on the adjacent condo building, 87 Park.
“There’s not a sufficient amount of money in the world that can compensate for this,” Hanzman said.
One lawyer is planning to launch a website at www.ctsreceivership.com on Wednesday for residents who need relocation assistance or end-of-life benefits.