Miami’s South Champlain tower collapse results in near $1B settlement

After a grueling 11 months of litigation, the settlement regarding the collapse of the South Champlain tower in Miami on June 24th, 2021 amounted to nearly $1B which will be paid to the families of the deceased and the people injured in the devastating event. A little backstory: the 12-story tower built-in 1981 had faced years of scrutiny over its deteriorating condition and it was obvious it was in need of major repair. Engineers gave warnings 3 years prior and since January 2021, the building was deemed structurally unsafe. Everyone is now scratching their heads as to why it took so long to react to a warning so far in advance. Even scarier, the building next door has the same specs and it too could face the same danger in the future. Days after the tragedy, the building was demolished and the land was cleared.

Here’s a brief overview of what we will cover in this article:

What happened?

The collapse of Miami’s South Champlain Tower in June of 2021

What was the result?

98 people dead, 156 missing, and a near $1B settlement

How did it happen?

Wet, unstable ground and the procrastination of structural repairs

What’s next?

The proceeds from the sale of the land the tower stood on will go to victims and their families 

It is estimated that a perfect storm of negative physical and psychological factors played a role in destabilizing the tower. As stated above, the structural dangers of the building were known facts and it is obvious something was not addressed as soon as it should have been. It’s not uncommon for essential non-cosmetic repairs to be shuffled down on the priority list by association board members looking to stay in office. Structural repairs that improve buildings can take years to complete, a lot of money, and when finished might not even improve the visual appearance of the building. Analogous to this would be a car with a badly damaged bumper and a dying alternator, both needing repairs. The damaged bumper would be a cheaper repair and would look great when finished while the alternator would be more expensive and hardly visually noticeable when fixed. It was also mentioned that the vibration echoing from a next-door adjacent construction site had a major impact on the destabilization of the tower. Other red flags include the question of whether the building was built on wetlands with unsatisfactory soil composition. According to engineers, the tower was built on land that had been settling for some time and may not have been suitable for construction in the first place. In addition to this, there were areas reported where water could only escape through evaporation. Areas where water cannot run off pose a great danger to structure supports which need stable, dry land in order to function properly. While the event cannot be pinpointed to a single factor, a combination of irresponsibility and environmental conditions resulted in the collapse. Let’s now look at the month that followed and the rescue efforts that were made.  

The month following the collapse resulted in a diary of events including the identification of bodies and external help from surrounding areas (infographic above). The number of deaths rose and donations were received with grace. Rescue teams on the ground level went to work searching under the rubble looking for survivors. Firefighters risked their own lives searching in unsafe areas, wiggling through the remains hoping to find victims under layers of concrete. Some areas were extremely dangerous due to the amount of debris or fires that blazed in the depths of the wreckage. Halfway through the process, an announcement was made to demolish the building while animal owners desperately pleaded for a delay to recover their lost pets. Sadly, the delay was not granted due to pets not being found after three rescue attempts. That was a recap of the month that followed the event. Next, we’ll talk about the settlement amount and how that number was determined. 

With an initial settlement of about $83M covering the owners of the condos, a more exact amount of $997M is now being planned for distribution to the victims and their loved ones affected by this disaster. While the initial amount was quite low, the increase in amount was most likely for the release of liabilities from the parties that were given notice of the potential suit. The settlement will also be funded from the land sale proceeds.

If there is a bright side to all of this, the settlement’s conclusion will come in June and the families will receive some relief in the form of a slice of the $997M amount. Although it’s unsure as to how the amount is going to be divided up, there is uniform rejoice across families, attorneys, and even the judge himself as this comes to a close. So, what have we learned from all of this? Never ignore structural issues and ensure that they are repaired as soon as possible. Stay with us on our journey to prevent tragic events like this and visit to learn more about how we plan on doing so. Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you next time. 

– The Dials team

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