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Money from pool, alarm firms, condo association boosts Surfside wrongful death fund by $53M

Linda Robertson and Jay Weaver, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

MIAMI — A fire alarm company, a security alarm monitoring firm and a swimming pool contractor settled for about $1 million each in the Surfside condominium collapse class-action case, according to a Miami-Dade circuit court filing on Wednesday.

In addition, a $50 million settlement from the Champlain Towers South condo association will be shifted from reimbursing unit owners for their financial losses into the fund for paying wrongful death and personal injury claims.

The $53 million from the four defendants’ insurers brings the total of the wrongful death and personal injury settlement deal to nearly $1.1 billion, second-largest in Florida legal history, behind only the $11.3 billion Big Tobacco settlement in 1997.

Early on the morning of June 24, 2021, two sections of the 12-story tall, oceanfront Champlain Towers South building collapsed, killing 98 people.

The ensuing complex legal dispute has been overseen by Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman, who is now conducting hearings with the relatives of the deceased and with survivors who have personal injury claims to determine how the settlement money will be allocated.

Some three dozen entities have agreed to settle lawsuits and avoid going to trial.

Originally, in an effort to reimburse owners of the building’s 136 units for their property losses in a separate settlement fund, the condo association’s $50 million in liability and property insurance was allocated there.

To offset the $50 million now reallocated to the wrongful death fund, a matching amount will be shifted in to the property owners’ fund from the proceeds of the sale of the now-vacant property. Lawyers on the case are seeking as much as $100 million in pay for their work over the past 14 months from the wrongful death funds.

Premier Fire Alarms and Integration Systems, Central Alarm Control and Infinite Aqua, the pool company, agreed to settle for $3 million total.

 

House of Cards: How decades of problems converged the night Champlain Towers fell

The company paying the biggest portion of the wrongful death settlement — $517.5 million — is Securitas Security Services USA. The firm’s employees were contracted to provide guard services, monitor visitors in the lobby and operate the building’s security system on an emergency basis, including the alarm panel at the front desk to alert residents. A Securitas manager acknowledged in a deposition that the guard working the night shift on June 24 was not trained to activate the system.

Hallandale Beach-based Premier installed the fire alarm system in 2017. Premier’s President Matthew Haiman told the Herald last year that the system worked properly that night, despite survivors saying they heard nothing during the seven-minute period after the garage collapsed but before the tower fell.

Wednesday, Matthew Haiman, owner of Premier, labeled as “frivolous” any article that suggested the company’s fire system had failed. A person answering the phone at Central Alarm Control said she did not wish to comment. A call to Infinite Aqua was not returned.

As with previous settlements, there is no admission of negligence or responsibility.

The developers of the luxury condo Eighty Seven Park built next door and the project’s engineers, architects and related parties involved in construction accounted for another big chunk of the settlement, totaling about $400 million. Their payments, through insurance carriers, also were not an admission of responsibility or negligence.

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©2022 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Visit mcclatchydc.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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