The city negotiated settlements of $5 million to be paid to the wife of Zachary Breaux and $750,000 to the husband of Eugenie Poleyeff, The Miami Herald reported. But Monticello Insurance Co., a Delaware company, refused to pay.
Breaux went into the water when he heard Poleyeff, a New York City school secretary, yelling for help. Both couples were in Miami Beach for winter vacations in 1997.
"I saw Zachary reach her," his wife, Frederica, a schoolteacher, told the Herald in 2003. "I thought he would bring her back in. ... It was over in an instant."
Both Frederica Breaux and Rabbi Isadore Poleyeff sued, arguing the city had parking and concession stands at the beach, suggesting it was safe. There were no lifeguards.
U.S. District Judge Alan Gold ordered Monticello to pay in a ruling Friday.
The long-running case has led to rulings by the Florida Supreme Court and to a new state law that municipalities can protect themselves from liability by posting riptide warnings and red flags at beaches.