By: Jeanine Santucci USA TODAY
A Florida judge on Wednesday said that victims and families of the June 24 Florida condo collapse that killed nearly 100 people would receive $150 million to start.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman said at a hearing the amount would include $50 million in insurance money and at least $100 million from the sale of the site of Champlain Towers South, which was ordered to proceed earlier this month.
“The court’s concern has always been the victims here,” Hanzman said. “Their rights will be protected.”
Hanzman noted that victims of the collapse include renters and visitors to the property, not just condominium owners.
The building collapse, which left at least 97 people dead and others unaccounted for, sparked several lawsuits from victims and families. Hanzman had previously authorized the expedition of those suits and ordered that payments be fast-tracked.
On Wednesday, the judge said lawsuits would be consolidated into a class-action suit, and the $150 million in compensation would not draw from those lawsuits.
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The decision came as the site of the building collapse was nearly completely cleared of rubble Wednesday. The debris is being stored in a warehouse and vacant lots, to be preserved for use in lawsuits and for further investigation.
Though authorities haven’t determined the cause of the building collapse, there were reported concerns of possible structural damage to the 40-year-old condominium building in the past. Hanzman also heard arguments on what the future of the site should be.
While some unit owners have advocated for a memorial site, others want the site to be rebuilt, and others still prefer a hybrid of the two options. If a memorial site is chosen, Hanzman said residents and owners will not be expected to donate the land for the memorial; rather, they should be compensated at fair market value.
The judge’s main concern was speedy compensation, adding: “This is not a case where we have time to let grass grow underneath it.”