Dear survivor and family members of the Champlain Towers:
My name is Joe Osborne. In my 30 years of living in Florida, I can’t think of a tragedy that has touched me so deeply. With what you have been through, whether as a survivor or as a relative of someone lost, I imagine these weeks feel like months. On behalf of my partner, Greg Francis and his family, my family, and the people of our firm, we offer our heart-felt condolences.
And I’ll bet you’re getting tired of hearing that.
If you have come to this page looking for next steps, perhaps looking for resolve and action for what needs to happen next, then hopefully we can share reliable answers with you. While we don’t want to say it, a few answers may include “we’re just not sure right now.” However, know that we will find the cause of the collapse. We will hold whomever we can accountable. And while we can not turn back time, we will do all that is possible within the law to establish a legacy for your loved ones.
Over the past few weeks we have been asked numerous questions from families, friends, and relatives about the Champlain Tower collapse. While it seems most of the world has the same question: “How did this happen?”, it’s the victims and survivors who ask “What do I/we do now?”
While our answers may not bring you relief, they are honest and straightforward:
1. I/We Lived in Surfside Tower and Were Able to Escape Uninjured, What Can Be Done?
Stating the obvious, it is great to hear you were able to escape unharmed. However, you may have lost all your memories, belongings, and if you owned, your equity in your property.
There is legal recourse for homeowners, and renters as well; however the details are not fully developed. You have claims for property damage just as if there had been a fire, so creating a list of everything that was lost is necessary. This includes everything from cash and jewelry to socks and spoons. There is also an emotional trauma aspect of the claim due to the nature of the event. Many of the Champlain Tower collapse survivors are now fearful of buildings, have nightmares, and other emotional disturbances. These can be difficult for others to understand, but are valid emotions that can negatively impact daily life and may continue for months or even years.
Begin by making a list of all belongings that are missing. It can take weeks to create and that’s ok. If you have sleeping disturbances or fears, journal these in your phone or in a notebook. Counseling is available without cost. If you are having trouble locating a counselor, we will help you find one.
2. I Lost My Brother/Parents/Aunt/Family in the Collapse. How Long Will the Lawsuit Take?
Honestly, this is going to be a long process and it will take more time than anyone wants to hear.
It will likely take 12-24 months to “officially” determine the cause of the collapse. Right now, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a U.S. government organization, is responsible for the final determination. They are considering all elements from beach improvements in 2018, defective construction and maintenance, to salty air and hurricanes.
At the earliest it will be 3 years, and if delayed and dragged through the courts by the defendants (insurance company) it could take 7.5-9 years. We predict this litigation will resolve and pay victims’ families in about 4.5 years and hopefully sooner.
Even though the time seems a long way off, there is still a good reason to file in order to recover and establish a legacy or memorial. Donating to charities or religious causes that families cared about may be of importance. Future college tuition or the purchase of a home or family vacation home is common for families we have represented that recover after a wrongful death. This helps to keep fond memories alive and add more in the future.
“While we can not turn back time, we will do all that is possible within the law to establish a legacy for your loved ones.” – Attorney Joe Osborne
3. Who Is the Judge Handling the Case and Can They Be Trusted?
Judge Michael Hanzman is a very fair judge in our opinion and he will protect the Champlain Tower collapse victims.
This was a preventable tragedy, but as a judge, he is required to hear evidence from both sides, meaning there will be an army of lawyers and forensic experts who attempt to sway the fault away from the at-fault parties. This is where lawyers (like us) will come in with our own expert testimony, facts, timelines, and research.
While unlikely, should a jury trial occur, then the final outcome can rest in the hands of 12 jurors who bring their own ideals, prejudices, and emotions into the courtroom.
4. What are Most Lawyers Charging for Fees?
We know a lot of lawyers tend to want to dodge this question but we prefer to be upfront about it — 33% of the recovery or what the Honorable Judge Hanzman determines is fair. If the insurance company representing the towers and land chooses to fight, then the work involved could be extremely time consuming.
Hopefully that won’t be the case and this can be resolved quickly. There are many reasons why it could take longer but it would be best to not speculate without all the facts at this time. I am of course glad to share these thoughts on a confidential phone call should you wish to talk.
We are not taking cases “Pro Bono” (free) and believe that lawyers who claim to be may not fully understand the litigation and thousands of hours and experts that need to be hired to ensure the maximum recovery is attained. Judge Hanzman has stated very clearly that cases must be complete and ironclad as he stated recently in court: “I’m not interested in ‘hail Mary’ claims.”
We feel this was Judge Hanzman’s warning to many lawyers who do not have sufficient experience or resources to see their cases through this process to back off and not insult those who do have a proper case. As we stated before, this could take years to fight in order to attain the maximum amount.
5. Why Should I/Our Family Hire You?
The truth is that Florida has many highly experienced lawyers, quite literally some of the best in the country, and like any profession, a few bad apples too. The fact is that Florida breeds aggressive trial lawyers who seek to change laws often for the safety of our community, and also to protect our freedoms and constitutional rights.
Osborne & Francis is a law firm of trial lawyers and expert professionals who can be depended on to handle your case. We have litigated some of the largest cases in the country, changed lives, and served clients in one way or another who lived in all 50 states. Our calling in life is to help others; it’s how we feed our families, and you can trust us to protect and recover what you lost.
If your question was not answered or you have a specific detail that needs to be addressed, please feel free to contact us online or give us a call at (561) 293-2600. You can speak with either my law partner, Greg, or myself to discuss your rights and options moving forward.
All phone calls are confidential and protected by law under the attorney/client privilege.
Pictured: Greg Francis (left) & Joe Osborne (right)