Surfside collapse unit owners ask court to up their $83M payout

Request follows separate $1B settlement that excludes them

A photo illustration of the letter unit owners of Champlain Towers South in Surfside sent to the court (Getty Images, iStock)
A photo illustration of the letter unit owners of Champlain Towers South in Surfside sent to the court (Getty Images, iStock)

UPDATED, May 16, 9:14 p.m.: Unit owners of Champlain Towers South in Surfside are asking the court to boost their $83 million payout, following a much larger $997 million settlement reached last week for the families who lost loved ones in the collapse.

Roughly 50 unit owners are asking for a reconsideration of their allocation, citing the milestone future payout to the families of the 98 who died, according to court filings.

In a letter to Champlain condo association receiver Michael Goldberg, the unit owners say they are “thrilled” with the settlement for the families, who are the wrongful death plaintiff class in the lawsuit. But they add that “given the size of the settlement, it merits” a reconsideration of the payout to those who lost their units. They make up the economic loss plaintiff class.

The nearly $1 billion settlement announced last week “exceeded everyone’s expectations,” the unit owners said in their letter filed to Goldberg on Thursday. “We too have been significantly hurt by this tragedy and need to rebuild our lives.”

On Monday, Goldberg filed a motion with the court, alerting Judge Michael Hanzman of the request and attaching the unit owners’ letter. A hearing on the issue is scheduled for May 24.

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The court filing could reopen a previous issue that had pitted the wrongful death class against the economic loss group over dividing disbursements collected in the litigation.

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The $83 million settlement will come from Champlain’s insurance and from the sale of the oceanfront property at 8777 Collins Avenue. Stalking horse bidder Damac Properties, a Dubai-based developer, set the minimum purchase price for the site at $120 million, and the property will be auctioned off on May 24. Bidders who want to compete with Damac have until Friday to submit their offers, which must be over $120 million.

The $83 million would be divided among owners of the 136 units, based on their percentage ownership stake in the building. In exchange, unit owners will be released from potential liability for the collapse based on state law that says condo owners could be on the hook for the value of their unit in events such as the collapse.

On the other hand, the $997 million settlement comes from more than 25 entities and companies, some of which were sued in the collapse litigation and some that weren’t. They include the Terra-led development team of Eighty Seven Park, the next-door condo tower whose construction was alleged in the suit to have contributed to the collapse. The proceeds from the Eighty Seven Park development team came from its insurers, with the settlement constituting no admission of fault by the builders.

Negotiations are ongoing with the sole remaining defendant, the vibration monitoring firm GeoSonics, which will likely push the settlement to over $1 billion.

Although the larger settlement is mainly for those who lost family members, some of the proceeds could go to those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder or for the loss of contents in a unit.

A Champlain unit owner who is a recipient of a share of the $83 million payout also could qualify for a portion of the $997 million settlement if they lost a loved one.

In court, Hanzman has said he hoped the two plaintiff classes won’t be at odds over the allocations.