Wednesday 18 October 2017

California considers changing law in wake of Berkeley tragedy

Inspectors have blamed severe dry rot for the balcony collapse in which five Irish students and one American student died
Inspectors have blamed severe dry rot for the balcony collapse in which five Irish students and one American student died
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

California is to debate changing state law in the wake of the Berkeley balcony tragedy to make it mandatory to report lawsuit settlements involving construction problems.

The move came after it emerged both the City of Berkeley and the Contractors State Licensing Board (CSLB) were unaware Segue Construction, which built the Berkeley complex at which six students died, had paid out $26.5m (€23m) in lawsuit settlements over the past six years.

California State Senator Jerry Hill said it was clear regulations introduced in 2011 were not working as intended.

City of Berkeley authorities are also reviewing balcony design and inspections after the June 16 tragedy in which five Irish students and one American student died.

Inspectors blamed severe dry rot for the balcony collapse.

Now, Senator Hill warned, lessons must be learned. He wants it made mandatory for all lawsuits involving construction issues to be notified to the relevant authorities.

Until now, confidentiality clauses in legal settlements have prevented such disclosures.

The Democrat argued that it was incredible the CSLB wasn't aware Segue had settled more than €23m in claims. CSLB is responsible for over 300,000 builders in California.

"The best we could come up with (in the Senate) was that (a confidentiality agreement) could not preclude or prevent a harmed party from disclosing to the board," he said.

"But we have not seen the reporting after a settlement. It is not providing the disclosure that we anticipated. That is why we need to change the law."

Meanwhile, a special concert for the Berkeley victims will be staged in The Academy, Dublin, on July 23, with tickets costing €25.

Irish Independent

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