August 29, 2022
A recent Law 360 story by Carolina Bolado, “Attorneys Get $71M in Fees For $1B Surfside Settlement Work” reports that the judge overseeing the consolidated litigation over the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Florida, approved about $71 million in attorney fees for class counsel who secured a global settlement of more than $1 billion for the victims. In a hearing, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman said he would award $65 million in attorney fees for work by counsel in bringing the case to a close about a year after the collapse of the beachfront condominium tower on June 24, which killed 98 people.
He added $6.5 million in fees for work attorneys have performed in recent weeks guiding victims' families through the now-completed claims process. Coupled with the $5.65 million Judge Hanzman awarded to court-appointed receiver Michael Goldberg and the three firms that represented him — Akerman LLP, Berger Singerman LLP and Boyle Leonard & Anderson PA — for their work handling the receivership of the condominium association, the total fees amount to about $77 million.
The judge noted that amount is between 6% and 7% of the total $1.2 billion recovery obtained for victims of the collapse, far less than what victims would have had to pay had they retained counsel and litigated claims on their own. Judge Hanzman commended the attorneys, who worked the complicated case "in a glass house and under extreme pressure." He said they signed on at the beginning of the case, when expected recovery was $200 million to $300 million and the court had warned them not to expect any fees.
"This case could've been a disaster for them," the judge said. "There was so much potential to go off the rails. They could've been stuck in a decade-long slog with no compensation." Class counsel had requested a lodestar fee amount of about $22 million, multiplied by 4.5 to get to just over $100 million. The judge agreed a multiplier was warranted, given the extraordinary result, but he was unwilling to go that high.
At the hearing, co-lead counsel Harley Tropin of Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton, told Judge Hanzman that "whatever you award us is good with us." "We had one goal: Recover as much money as we could," Tropin said. "I hope you think we did a good job. Whatever you award us, we're good."
Following the hearing, Tropin and co-lead counsel Rachel Furst of Grossman Roth Yaffa Cohen PA said in a statement that they were "grateful to have had the opportunity to represent the victims and serve the court." "We are grateful for the recognition of our work in the form of this fee award and for having this brought this case to a conclusion for the victims," they said.
The funds going out to the victims will come from the $1 billion from a global settlement with a number of parties, insurance proceeds from the condominium association's policies, and $120 million from the sale of the property to Dubai, United Arab Emirates-based buyer Damac Properties PJSC.