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Miami judge says summer trial likely for lawsuits in deadly condo collapse

One major lawsuit claims the construction of a neighboring tower contributed to the collapse. Its developers deny responsibility.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this June 25, 2021 file photo, rescue personnel work at the remains of the Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside, Fla. A summer trial is likely for lawsuits seeking millions of dollars in damages from the collapse of a Florida beachfront condominium that killed 98 people, a judge said Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

SURFSIDE, Fla. — A Miami judge says a summer trial is likely for lawsuits seeking millions of dollars in damages from the collapse of a Florida beachfront condominium that killed 98 people. 

Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman said at a hearing Wednesday the timeframe for a trial to begin would be July or August. The lawsuits filed in the aftermath of the 12-story Champlain Towers South collapse on Jun. 24 in Surfside seek to affix blame and collect money for the victims, family members and property owners. 

One major lawsuit claims the construction of a neighboring tower contributed to the collapse. Its developers deny responsibility.

Champlain Towers was just beginning a mandated 40-year safety review when it collapsed despite warnings years earlier of major structural deficiencies. The fallout from the collapse has prompted a federal probe into what led to the deadly event. 

Armed with $22 million in supplemental funding from Congress, The National Institute of Standards and Technology has created six separate teams of experts to examine various aspects of the condo collapse.

These include efforts to figure out how the building was initially designed, what changes were made and what deteriorated; what data was collected by aerial drones and remote sensors; inspection of hundreds of pieces of rubble for structural failure clues; and whether soils, underground rock or vibrations from nearby construction may have played a role. 

Happening parallel to the probe and lawsuits is another court case in which a Miami-Dade County judge has appointed a receiver to handle sale of the property, access to evidence for experts hired by lawyers and financial details such as insurance policies.

Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman has named a mediator to work through claims for compensation by condo owners and those who lost loved ones in the collapse. That process also is taking time.