By Emmett Berg
(Reuters) - The company that built a Berkeley apartment building where six people were killed after a balcony collapsed this week was accused two years ago of building faulty balconies in another project, court documents show.
California-based Segue Construction paid $3.4 million to settle litigation over alleged defects in a condominium development in Millbrae, California, after a homeowners association sued, the homeowners' lawyer said.
In their lawsuit, the homeowners said the 109-unit complex, The Park Broadway at Millbrae, was damaged by water intrusion into numerous outdoor spaces, including balconies ranging from two to five stories high.
The design and construction of outdoor spaces such as balconies were “a very prominent part of the litigation,” said San Francisco attorney Thomas Miller, who represented the homeowners.
Water damage on balcony guardrails threatened their integrity and led to a prohibition on the use of balconies during reconstruction, said Rachel Miller, another lawyer for the homeowners.
Water was also a concern expressed by experts interviewed by Reuters about the balcony collapse at the Library Gardens complex in Berkeley.
These experts said wood rot from exposure to excess moisture may have weakened beams supporting the fourth-floor structure, which collapsed early Tuesday while holding 13 young people, most of them college students from Ireland.
Three men and three women in their early 20s, including an American friend of the Irish students, died, and seven others were hospitalized.
“Segue Construction’s hearts go out to the families and loved ones who died or who were injured in this tragic accident,” the company said on Thursday through a spokesman, adding that Segue has “built more than 6,000 units and has never had an incident like this in its history.”
The spokesman, Sam Singer, said his San Francisco-based public relations firm was “substantially reducing our role” representing the company, and referred further inquiries to Segue Construction President Erick Hockaday, who could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.
In the Park Broadway lawsuit, the homeowners association listed 29 incidents of water intrusion, including “the windows, patio doors, and deck doors and their systems allow excessive condensation to enter the structure and cause damage to other components,” documents show.
Court filings include photographs of reconstruction work at the Park Broadway units that attorneys said showed water damage to support systems for patios, balconies and other outdoor spaces.
(Reporting by Emmett Berg in San Francisco; Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Eric Beech)