In June 2015, the fourth floor balcony of a Berkeley apartment collapsed killing six students, and injuring a seventh. This week, the owner and property manager of the apartment complex reached a partial settlement with the families. This is the second partial settlement reached in the case. In May 2017, another partial settlement was reached with seven companies involved in construction of the apartment complex.
This case highlights the need for reform in California’s building codes and regulations. Further, it brings to light the issues caused by the court’s allowance of confidential settlements with defective builders. As long as such settlements are allowed to remain confidential, there are no past experience parameters by which contractors may be determined suitable for other building projects. Their negligent practices can continue to go unnoticed, while placing the safety of others at risk. So much so, that even criminal charges such as criminal negligence are a possibility in an event such as this one. However, the Alameda court in this case chose not to pursue those charges due to lack of evidence.
This is a large, complex case involving multiple instances of wrongful death as well as premises liability. Parties should never face something like this alone. An experienced attorney in either of those areas can help navigate very treacherous waters to obtain the compensation a family deserves after such a traumatic event. Without adequate representation in a case where there are multiple Plaintiffs and matters to address, a pro se Plaintiff can quickly become lost.
Source: California Patch, “Partial Settlement Reached in Berkeley Balcony Collapse Lawsuit,” Nov. 21, 2017