Saturday 10 December 2016

Even more lawsuits loom over Berkeley tragedy

Published 07/04/2016 | 02:30

'Multi-million dollar damages lawsuits have been lodged against 32 named defendants, including the owners and managers of the Library Gardens building where the balcony collapsed' Stock photo: Getty Images/Ingram Publishing
'Multi-million dollar damages lawsuits have been lodged against 32 named defendants, including the owners and managers of the Library Gardens building where the balcony collapsed' Stock photo: Getty Images/Ingram Publishing

The number of parties being sued by victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse could grow.

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Lawyers for survivors and the families of those who died are trying to determine the identities of other potential defendants who may be culpable for the tragedy.

Five Irish J1 students and a young Irish-American woman died, and seven Irish students were seriously injured, when an apartment balcony gave way in the Californian city last June.

Multi-million dollar damages lawsuits have been lodged against 32 named defendants, including the owners and managers of the Library Gardens building where the balcony collapsed, as well as construction, architecture and material supplier businesses.

But that number could grow as court papers have also been filed by lawyers for the victims citing as yet unknown defendants.

The practice is commonly used in the US to beat the statute of limitations, which is two years for personal injury cases in California. The names of 'John Doe' defendants can be added to the lawsuits at a later stage once their identities have been established.

Complaint

In a filing to the Superior Court in Alameda County, California, lawyers representing the majority of the victims have sought leave to amend the complaint at a later stage once the names and capacities of the other defendants have been determined.

They claimed these additional defendants are responsible in some manner for the tragedy and liable to pay damages.

The identities of further defendants, if any are to be added to the lawsuits, could be known later this month when a judge conducts a case management hearing.

Due to the large number of defendants already involved, the court is seeking to streamline the case. However, the proceedings, when they finally get under way, are still expected to be lengthy and complex.

So far, 16 defendants have made filings to the court denying the allegations they face.

Ten of those are also seeking to have the lawsuits watered down by removing a request for punitive damages.

Several defendants have sought to poke holes in the lawsuits, alleging they do not contain facts to support the allegations.

The proceedings could be further complicated by some defendants suing each other in a bid to apportion blame.

Irish Independent

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