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Surfside Condo Collapse Lawsuits Will Likely Go To Trial Next Summer

MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) - Lawsuits seeking millions in damages from the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, that killed 98 people, will likely go to trial next summer.

At a hearing, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman said the time frame would be in July or August and he won't look with favor on delays.

"I'm not granting extensions or continuances. Not in this case," Hanzman said. "Come next summer, we're going to be picking a jury in this case. It's not going to go beyond that."

The lawsuits filed in the aftermath of the collapse on June 24 seek to affix blame and collect money for the victims, family members, and property owners.

The collapse came as the building was undergoing its 40-year recertification, which likely meant steep assessments for condo owners to finance structural and other problems identified several years earlier.

One potential class-action case that could resolve the entire legal matter was filed last month, contending that excavation and construction of a luxury building next door worsened serious structural defects that already existed at Champlain Towers South.

The developers and others involved in the construction of the adjacent 18-story Eighty Seven Park tower who are listed as defendants deny their construction work contributed to the tragedy.

Hanzman said he would probably set a firm summer trial date in January. It's also possible the case could be settled before a trial is held.

A mediator is working to figure out how to allocate lawsuit damages, insurance proceeds, and land sale money between wrongful death victims and those who lost only property. The land where the condo once stood could sell for $120 million or more once all bids have been received.

"We have been working nonstop to resolve these issues," said Judd Rosen, a lawyer for one group of victims.

"Nothing would make the court happier," Hanzman said.

Meanwhile, investigations into the cause of the collapse are ongoing and will be augmented by the work of experts hired to collect evidence for lawsuits.

The lead investigating agency, the National Institute for Standards and Technology, recently estimated its probe could take as long as two years.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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