Judge Begrudgingly Sets Later Date for Condo Collapse Trial
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Now We Know When Lawsuits Over Catastrophic Surfside Condo Collapse in Florida Are Expected to Go Before a Jury

 
An aerial view of a collapsed condo in South Florida

This aerial view shows search and rescue personnel working on site after the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, north of Miami Beach, on June 24, 2021

The judge overseeing a series of lawsuits over the deadly, carnage-and-chaos-filled collapse of a condominium in Surfside, Florida agreed to push back a trial date in the would-be class action litigation.

Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Michael Hanzman was not pleased with the delay despite granting it after a request from the defendants’ attorneys. The court had been pushing for trial to begin this coming summer or fall over the June 24, 2021 tragedy that killed 98 people.

In the end, the judge set a start date of March 2023 for the sure-to-be complex trial featuring multiple plaintiffs and defendants.

“It will be impossible to try this case in the fall,” Michael Goldberg, the Champlain Towers condo association’s court-appointed receiver, said during a status conference on Wednesday.

Other defendants, including the development team of Eighty Seven Park, an adjacent luxury condo, said their experts needed more time to complete investigations. The foremost lawsuit in the consolidated litigation alleges that construction work on Eighty Seven Park damaged and destabilized Champlain Towers, facilitating the aging condo’s demise by exacerbating a dire situation at the felled condo which was already in a state of structural disrepair.

“This trial is not being continued until September 2023,” Hanzman said at the hearing as documented by TheRealDeal, a South Florida real estate-focused news outlet. “If you are all working under that illusion, and that is the only timetable your experts can meet, I strongly suggest you go out and get additional experts. Because that is not happening. That is a firm deadline, ladies and gentlemen. So do not bank on any continuances whatsoever.”

Hanzman said the victims, “many of whom are survivors and elderly, have a right to their case proceeding to trial expeditiously,” journalists Lidia Dinkova and Katherine Kallergis noted for the outlet.

Specifically, the major lawsuit alleges that excavation, pile-driving, and other associated work at Eighty Seven Park – which is just across the street from the collapsed condo – caused a series of vibrations that weakened the Champlain Towers foundation between a period spanning 2016 through 2019. The lawsuit also says the basement of the collapsed condo was flooded by groundwater after the developers for the newer building purchased a road in between the structures.

The luxury condo developers have disclaimed any and all liability over the neighboring tower’s fall, insisting the building fell apart because it was “improperly designed, poorly constructed, significantly underfunded and inadequately maintained.”

As Law&Crime previously reported, ten plaintiffs filed the first raft of lawsuits against the Champlain Towers South alleging various degrees of negligence and often on behalf of deceased family members. Numerous additional lawsuits have been filed since the immediate aftermath of the carnage in Surfside.

Also included in the lawsuits are insurance companies.

While no dollar amount has been listed in the damages section of the main lawsuit, the amount of money sought across the numerous legal filings will almost surely total into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Damages for an eventual verdict would likely be used to pay out victims and their families for the loss of their homes and for the death of the inhabitants who paid the greatest price.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Judge Hanzman stressed that he was not going to grant another delay in the case — even if one is requested in the future — because the matter is already running some six months behind his preferred schedule.

“This court is not working under some leisurely schedule,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “This case will not be continued.”

[image via CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images]

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