- (Photo by Joe Raedle / Getty Images)
Housing company Champlain Towers South insurer has announced it will make an upfront payment to resolve claims for damages related to the 12-story beachfront property in the Miami suburb of Surfside, Florida, which collapsed on June 24, 2021.
“We would like to announce that the James River Insurance Company has made the decision to voluntarily submit their entire limit from the attached policy in an attempt to resolve any claims in this matter,” the insurer’s attorney wrote to the judge who a class action lawsuit processed a claim for damages from the club in the millions.
Since the collapse last week, four local residents or their families have filed lawsuits against the association. Many more lawsuits are expected in the coming months, and litigation could last for years as investigators work to figure out what caused the collapse. The first trial was held yesterday, and a Miami-Dade Circuit judge admitted that the building’s $ 48 million total insurance coverage is unlikely to be enough.
Overall, the court said the condominium company’s master policy provides for $ 30 million in property insurance and $ 18 million in liability insurance. The condominium association has agreed to hand over the financial decision-making to a court-appointed “recipient”.
Find survivors as the storm approaches
With investigators still working to find and rescue survivors, and with Hurricane Elsa – the first of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season and the earliest “E-named” storm ever – heading for Florida, the situation remains fluid. This week, dozens of units at a central Florida residential complex near Disney World were deemed unsafe after an inspection found the sidewalks leading to the units were in danger of collapsing, according to an Osceola County spokesman. Residents have been advised to enter the buildings where the units are located at their own risk, the spokesman said, adding that county staff are offering residents assistance with temporary housing.
Increased awareness of the condition of older skyscrapers in South Florida and the United States following the collapse of the Champlain Towers could lead to increased claims for loss of use coverage. In addition, many businesses in the vicinity of the collapse were made inaccessible during the rescue operation, which could lead to business interruption claims.
Building regulations in focus
Additionally, this event could lead to a nationwide review of building codes and inspection practices. South Florida building codes are among the strictest in the country – they are designed to protect residents from hurricanes. The state put mandatory regulations after Hurricane Andrew Category 5 ripped homes from their foundations in 1992, leaving 65 dead in Homestead, and some counties – particularly in South Florida – introduced stricter requirements.
But after last week’s collapse, IBHS Chief Engineer Anne Cope said, “This is a Katrina and Andrew moment where we’re going to learn and make changes.”
Many of the area’s buildings – including Champlain Towers South – were built prior to 1992 as part of the South Florida condominium boom. These buildings are subject to regulations in force at the time of their construction and only need to undergo a local district inspection every 40 years – such as the 2018 Surfside condo review where an engineer hoisted red flags that the building was beginning to address itself but did not warn of an impending disaster.
A FEMA study last year said implementing modern building codes could save states and communities billions of dollars.