Surfside Building Collapse Lawsuit Won't Go to Trial Until 2023 Due to Lengthy Evaluations

A Florida judge said on Wednesday the major lawsuit involving the collapse of the Champlin Towers South building, which killed 98 people, will go to trial later than he expected.

Lawyers said that engineers and other experts involved in the case needed more time to evaluate exactly what caused the building to collapse.

The lawyers said the initial trial date set for September wouldn't have been enough time to evaluate everything. "It will be impossible to try this case in the fall," said the Champlain Towers condo association's court-appointed receiver Michael Goldberg.

Judge Michael Hanzman took the matter into account and set a new date for the trial, which will now begin in March 2023, six months later than he had originally planned.

"That is a firm deadline, ladies and gentlemen," Hanzman said during the virtual hearing.

The lawsuit claims the construction next door of an 18-story condo was the reason Champlin Towers collapsed. However, the defendants have denied this claim.

The defendants said in a previous statement the Champlin Towers were "improperly designed, poorly constructed, significantly underfunded and inadequately maintained."

Currently, the lawsuit does not have a specific dollar amount requested in damages, but lawyers believe that it could total hundreds of millions of dollars.

All of the money awarded for damages would go to the wrongful death claims and to the people who lost their belongings and homes because of the incident.

Champlin Tower Lawsuit Trial 2023
A Florida judge said the lawsuit involving the Champlain Towers South collapse that killed 98 people will go to trial in March 2023. In this June 30, 2021, file photo, search and rescue personnel work atop the rubble at the Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside, Florida. Lynne Sladky/AP Photo

The collapse of Champlain Towers, located in Surfside, Florida, was one of the worst building disasters in U.S. history. Federal and state agencies are investigating what happened, but likely won't reach a conclusion for many months.

The main lawsuit filed in November contends that work on an adjacent luxury condo building, known as Eighty Seven Park, damaged and destabilized an aging Champlain Towers building already in dire need of major structural repair.

The lawsuit contends that excavation, pile-driving and other work at Eighty Seven Park, just across the city limits in Miami Beach, between 2016 and 2019 caused vibrations that weakened the shaky structure next door. In addition, groundwater was funneled from the new building to the Champlain Towers basement after developers bought a small road separating the two, the lawsuit says.

Lawyers for insurance companies, the adjacent building's developers and other entities said the initial trial date wouldn't allow engineers and other experts to fully evaluate what happened.

The property where the now-demolished Champlain Towers South once stood is up for sale with bidding for the prime oceanfront land currently at about $120 million. Plans are also in the works for a nearby memorial to those who perished.

Hanzman told lawyers not to expect any further delays beyond March of next year. "This case will be going to trial in March 2023," he said.

"This court is not working under some leisurely schedule," the judge said. "This case will not be continued."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.