According to a wsj.com article, plaintiffs’ attorneys stated that it would cost $1 billion to compensate the Champlain Towers South collapse victims and their families and the available insurance money is inadequate. So far, there have been approximately 24 civil lawsuits
Plaintiffs’ lawyers have filed some two dozen lawsuits following the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo tower last month, seeking payouts for the 98 deaths and destruction of 136 apartments it caused. The lawyers say it would take $1 billion to compensate everyone fairly.
According to attorneys and court filings, there is approximately $50 million in insurance policies for the condo association that is currently available to compensate victims of the Miami-area condo collapse disaster. The financial shortfall is so substantial that some victims are worried that their potential settlement will not cover the value of their lost property.
Judge Michael Hanzman, of the 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida, explained that the available real estate insurance “will obviously be inadequate to compensate everyone fully to the extent of their horror.” Judge Hanzman also stated that there would be a serious insurance money allocation problem between those who lost property and those who lost loved ones.
Litigation in the Champlain Towers South case is stifled by a property insurance policy with insufficient coverage and the judge’s push to resolve the victims’ lawsuits quickly. The principal defendant is a nonprofit condo board that has limited financial resources.
The lawsuit complaints accuse the condo board of failing to protect the building’s condo owners by not performing requisite repairs and failing to monitor the building for signs of deterioration, ultimately leading to the building’s partial collapse. Many of the civil lawsuits are thought to be joined into a class action lawsuit.
Judge Hanzman stated the land could be sold to help compensate the victims. The property has an approximate value of $100 million or more. However, the sale would be complicated as some residents are fighting for the right to move back into their units once rebuilt, and others want to build a memorial.
The property insurance coverages include the condo association’s liability coverage of $18 million and a $31 million property policy that covers the building. The total policy limits pale in comparison to the estimated $1 billion in plaintiffs’ damages, notwithstanding any potential punitive damages that a jury could award to the victims and victims’ families.
According to insurance industry experts, the insurance coverages on condo buildings in Florida are designed to cover damage caused by major natural events such as a flood, hurricane, tornado, or hail storm and not a collapse necessitating a building’s total reconstruction. In other words, the insurance payouts would fall short of covering the cost of rebuilding the condominium building.
A Great American Insurance Company spokeswoman stated that the insurer has pledged to pay out the complete policy limits. However, the current construction costs in South Florida fall short of the costs to clear the property and rebuild the condo.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys are expected to file lawsuits against the building’s original architects, engineers, builders, contractors, and others who were involved with the building’s construction and maintenance. The news report states that some Champlain Tower South residents believe the new tower development being constructed beside the Champlain Tower helped destabilize their building.
Judge Hanzman has ordered the attorneys in the case to resolve the claims within a year. The judge stated that the insurance proceeds should go to the victims and not on lengthy litigation.
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