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Relatives of Surfside condo collapse victims reach $997 million settlement

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Relatives of Surfside condo collapse victims reach $997 million settlement
Relatives of the 98 people killed when the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Fla., collapsed last year reached a $997 million settlement on Wednesday. File Photo By Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

May 11 (UPI) -- Families of the victims of the Florida condominium that collapsed and killed 98 people last year reached a nearly $1 billion settlement on Wednesday.

Lawyers involved in a class-action lawsuit representing tenants from the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Fla., announced the $997 million settlement during a routine status conference at a courtroom in the state on Wednesday afternoon.

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The settlement could grow to about $1 billion if they are able to reach an agreement with a remaining company.

Judge Michael A. Hanzman of the Circuit Court in Miami-Dade County said he was "shocked" by the result.

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"I think it's fantastic," he said. "This is a recovery that is far in excess of what I had anticipated."

The 12-story building collapsed on June 24, destroying 55 condominium units and forcing the remainder of the 136-unit building to be demolished as the 98 people killed in the collapse included children, families and elderly couples.

"Some of the victims can never recover from this loss and we know that," Hanzman said Wednesday.

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The plaintiffs had argued that construction work at an adjacent luxury building, Eighty Seven Park, caused the Champlain Towers South building to become "so badly damaged and destabilized as to be unsafe."

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In March, unit owners who survived the collapse reached an $83 million settlement.

A dispute broke out between the victims of property loss and the families of non-owners who lost their lives in the collapse with some of the families of those who died believing that they should receive full compensation before others are compensated for property claims.

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The judge said he seeks to finalize the entire settlement by the one-year anniversary of the collapse with plans to determine how the money will be divided among the families of the victims to be determined in the coming weeks and payouts to the plaintiffs delivered by the fall.

"My goal was to do everything humanly as possible to conclude this case by the first anniversary of the collapse," he said.

Judd Rosen, a lead attorney on the case, told ABC News the settlement "represents accountability from a lot of different players."

"It's the largest settlement from a single incident in U.S. history," Rosen said. "The number itself implies significant accountability on what happened."

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