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A tentative settlement is reached in a Surfside condo collapse lawsuit


Attorneys in Florida have reached a nearly $1 billion deal for victims of the condominium collapse in Surfside. The tragedy last June killed 98 people. From member station WLRN, Veronica Zaragovia reports that once approved, the money will go to those who lost family members.

VERONICA ZARAGOVIA, BYLINE: Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman looked out to everyone in his courtroom and said he had just had the finest moment of his judicial career.


MICHAEL HANZMAN: And I hope you're as proud of yourselves as I am because you really have done a service to these victims.

ZARAGOVIA: Attorneys representing victims of the condo building collapse worked with a mediator to reach a deal of $997 million for the wrongful deaths. At the start of the process, the judge chose Rachel Furst as one of the lead attorneys representing the victims.

RACHEL FURST: It's been an honor to work on this case on behalf of the victim of this tragedy. It's been nearly a year of very hard work to get to this point.

ZARAGOVIA: Judd Rosen was part of that group. He said the hardest part was not the long hours, but listening to the stories.

JUDD ROSEN: When you're dealing with these types of situations where a mom loses a child, a boy loses a mom, you can't differentiate that type of loss. You know, it's all horrible.

ZARAGOVIA: Estelle Hedaya was the last person identified of the 98 victims. Her best friend, Lisa Shrem, said after court the decision is a big relief.

LISA SHREM: We always felt like we were left as last. In the beginning, it was like, OK, they died, they died. We can't worry about them. We have to worry about the living. So I guess in that respect, it's nice to know that finally they're remembering all those who died.

ZARAGOVIA: She said Hedaya's family is glad this court process is coming to an end.

For Pablo Langesfeld, there's no closure yet. His daughter Nicole died in the collapse. He told the Miami Herald money won't bring him closure, only knowing how this happened.

A federal investigation into the collapse is ongoing. The families will receive money from insurance companies, developers and others. Later this month, the beachfront property is to be auctioned off, and that's expected to boost the settlement to well over a billion dollars.

For NPR News, I'm Veronica Zaragovia in Miami.

(SOUNDBITE OF LEAVY'S "BLUE VIEW") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Verónica Zaragovia was born in Cali, Colombia, and grew up in South Florida. She’s been a lifelong WLRN listener and is proud to cover health care for the station. Verónica has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master's degree in journalism. For many years, Veronica lived out of a suitcase (or two) in New York City, Tel Aviv, Hong Kong, Las Vegas, D.C., San Antonio and Austin, where she worked as the statehouse and health care reporter with NPR member station KUT.