Judge to decide how to allocate billion dollar settlement for Surfside condo collapse victims

Workers pump water out of the foundation of the former Champlain Towers South building, Thursday, May 12, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. The Eighty Seven Park building is to the south. Parties associated with the building and others have agreed to a settlement of $997 million to compensate the victims and families of those killed when the Champlain Towers South building collapsed nearly a year ago. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier) (Marta Lavandier, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

SURFSIDE, Fla. – The process of putting values on the lives of the 98 people lost in the Champlain Towers South collapse is underway, as the Miami-Dade Circuit judge overseeing the $1 billion settlement decides how to divide it.

Judge Michael Hanzman, who has been overseeing the complicated, multilevel case, will make the final determination. He directed attorneys in a hearing Wednesday evening to make the claim process as streamlined and simple as possible.

The families will be asked to fill out claim forms to document their losses, then participate in meetings to determine the value of the claims.

Hanzman expects the process to continue through the summer, with the goal of getting families their portions of the massive settlement in September.

The record-setting settlement announced last week includes insurance companies, the Champlain Towers South homeowners association and its attorneys, construction companies, engineers and contractors that were sued by survivors and victims’ families.

It also includes the developers of the neighboring building, Eighty Seven Park, where construction work was blamed for damaging Champlain Towers South.

Lawyers told Hanzman that in addition to wrongful death claims, there will be claims for physical injuries and trauma disorders.

Earlier this week, the surviving unit owners whose homes were demolished after the collapse asked the judge to consider increasing their separate settlement amount.

About 50 owners dividing an $83 million settlement for economic losses wrote a letter to the court-appointed receiver asking that their amounts be reconsidered in light of the billion-dollar wrongful death settlement.

The next hearing on all the matters is scheduled next week, immediately following the auction sale of the oceanfront Surfside property.

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Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."