The Berkeley Balcony Collapse: A Violation of Trust

Berkeley balcony collapse

"It's hard to imagine the pain inflicted on these wonderful young students and the massive grief to moms and dads, brothers and sisters, and friends. The pain is even worse when you realize that this was totally preventable. This company has had to pay out millions of dollars for bad balconies causing harm to innocent people. One would think that any company with integrity, once they knew of a problem, would immediately do something about it. If it weren't fixing the balconies, then at least making them inaccessible. Our law firm, Girardi & Keese, is continuing to investigate every possible aspect of this terrible tragedy and we will continue to update the public."

- Attorney Tom Girardi

Update: July 20, 2015

We have posted a news round-up on our blog, with links to stories about how the number of people on the balcony at the time of its collapse is not an issue, the fact that Segue Construction has paid more than $26.5 million in prior settlements, and Clodagh Cogley's inspirational Facebook update, among others.

Update: July 2, 2015

Activist Erin Brockovich, with whom we worked on the infamous Hinkley groundwater contamination case in the 1990s, has published a detailed list of what she's uncovered thus far on the Berkeley balcony collapse. The list includes alleged modifications of building codes to benefit developers and prior lawsuits involving waterproofing problems, to name two. To see the full list, visit Erin Brockovich's Facebook page.

Original Post: June 24, 2015

Trust.

That's the word that comes to mind when it comes to the structural and mechanical integrity of our buildings. We trust that when we step onto an elevator, walk out onto a balcony, or climb a flight of stairs, that what we're using is safe. This is one of the fundamental ideas of "premises liability law," which, among other things, holds owners responsible for the safety of their properties.

We trust because we have to. We have no other choice but to assume that the buildings and structures we use every day are safe. To do otherwise would risk paranoia.

But that's exactly why it hurts so much when our trust is violated, as it was on June 16, 2015.

What Happened: Wood Rot Due to Water Exposure

Without warning, the balcony of a Berkeley, Calif. apartment unit collapsed in the early morning hours on Tuesday, sending at least a dozen people to the ground four stories below. The collapse - investigators believe the cause to be wood rot - ended the lives of five young Irish nationals (and one with dual Irish-American citizenship) and hospitalized several more with serious injuries.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the collapse has put "a new focus" on wood rot from water exposure, which points to a possible construction defect. "[W]ood rot, also known as dry rot," write Los Angeles Times reporters, "can make a beam that appears sturdy porous, enough to crumble on contact, due to the growth of a fungus that feeds on the wood."

As the Los Angeles Times points out, the collapse is "unnerving," simply because so many balconies are similarly constructed, in which wood joists extend through the exterior walls to create the foundation of the balcony. But there was apparently so much water exposure that one quoted engineer said: "I mean, literally, was there a river running through here or what?"

Thomas Girardi: 'A Great Friend and Partner to Ireland and the Irish Bar'

At Girardi | Keese, we have long-time ties to Ireland, which makes this tragic incident extremely difficult for us.

Not only is founder Thomas Girardi an Honorary Bencher of the Honorable Society of King's Inns, but he received the Irish American Bar Association's Daniel O'Connell Award. And Girardi | Keese attorney Chris Aumais is past president of the Irish American Bar Association, attended law school in Ireland (at Queen's University School of Law in Belfast), and has significant ties to Ireland as an Irish Extern.

In short, both Mr. Girardi and Mr. Aumais feel this loss quite personally, and it would be an honor to help in any way we can.

"Having been a great friend and partner to Ireland and the Irish bar, our entire law firm was devastated to hear about the recent tragedy in Berkeley. Our hearts go out to each and every family-member and friend affected by the Berkeley balcony collapse disaster. We are already offering assistance to families on the ground in California. We are now in a position to offer support, assistance and expertise to those affected by this disaster through our colleagues and associates in Ireland. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of these victims. As always, we are here to lend a hand in any way possible."

- Attorney Tom Girardi

How the Lawyers of Girardi | Keese Can Help

What's done is done. We cannot go back in time and change the outcome. But the river of water, so to speak, should not have happened. This balcony collapse should not have happened. Whatever the cause - a lack of proper waterproofing or flashing, a leak in the roof that ran down within the exterior wall - we are in the business of holding people and companies accountable for this kind of serious negligence.

Call Girardi | Keese at 800-401-4530 or email us. Click here to learn more about our success stories.