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One year after Surfside condo collapse in Florida, a legal settlement is approved

In an aerial view, a cleared lot where the 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building once stood is seen on June 22, 2022 in Surfside, Florida. This week marks the first anniversary of the tragic event where 98 people died when the building partially collapsed.
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In an aerial view, a cleared lot where the 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building once stood is seen on June 22, 2022 in Surfside, Florida. This week marks the first anniversary of the tragic event where 98 people died when the building partially collapsed.

MIAMI — A Florida judge has approved a $1.2 billion settlement for unit owners and families of those who died in the collapse of a condo tower in Surfside last year. It was finalized one day before the anniversary of the disaster in which 98 people died.

In a Miami courtroom Thursday, Judge Michael Hanzman called it a "remarkable" outcome. Victims, families of the deceased, numerous defendants and their insurance companies were able to agree on a settlement within a year of the collapse of the condominium tower on June 24, 2021.

Hanzman thanked the dozens of attorneys involved in the case, which he said was the most complicated he'd seen in his 35-year career. The judge said it avoids the need for a trial that could have lasted a decade. He said, "These victims and families would have had to suffer through that and endure this trauma over and over and over again."

Judge Hanzman says it's notable that no victims or families of those who died chose to opt-out and not participate in the settlement.

Lawyers praised Hanzman for his dedication and determination in pushing all sides for a speedy resolution. Victims and family members of those who died also thanked the judge. Eileen Rosenberg, whose daughter Malky was killed in the collapse, said Hanzman had "put himself in our shoes (and) mirrored our pain and tears."

Owners of condo units will split the proceeds of the sale of the land where the Champlain Towers South building stood, expected to total $96 million. Families of those who died and residents with injury and trauma claims will share nearly a billion dollars in compensation paid by 20 defendants. They include a residential high-rise recently constructed next door and the security company that managed safety systems at the condo tower.

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As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.