Lawsuits filed over Northern California balcony collapse

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 12, 2015 9:18 PM

By Curtis Skinner

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Attorneys for victims of a balcony collapse in the California city of Berkeley in June that left six people dead filed lawsuits on Thursday alleging negligence by the building's construction firm and property managers, the law firm said.

The 12 separate suits were filed on behalf of seven survivors and five Irish students who were killed when the balcony collapsed during the early morning hours of June 16, according to a statement from the Walkup, Melodia Kelly & Schoenberger law firm.

The statement said the families "hope that this litigation will bring to light the negligence and carelessness that caused this entirely avoidable tragedy that has produced so much pain and loss."

The suits alleged that the balcony crumbled due to "moisture-induced fungal growth" that destroyed its wooden support beams. The complaints claim that the defect, also known as wood rot, emerged from mistakes during the structure's design and construction.

The complaints claim that the property manager did nothing to respond to reports from residents of the apartment between 2008 and 2010 of seeing large mushrooms growing from the surface of the balcony and failed to respond to many "red flags."

Segue Construction, property manager Greystar, and the building owner BlackRock could not be immediately reached for comment.

The fourth-floor balcony was crowded with birthday revelers when it collapsed near the University of California at Berkeley, hurling five Irish college students and an American friend to their deaths and injuring seven others, authorities said.

The victims, most of whom were working in the San Francisco Bay area on temporary visas for the summer vacation, were on the small balcony when it plunged some 40 feet (12 meters) to the street below, with some victims landing on top of one another, according to local police and Irish government officials.

Thursday's lawsuits were filed in an Alameda County court and are seeking unspecified damages.

California-based Segue Construction had previously been sued for faulty balconies at another Bay Area property, and ultimately paid $3.4 million to settle the litigation over alleged defects in a condominium development after a homeowners association sued.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)