Tuesday 27 September 2016

Shane Phelan: No one will accept blame for tragedy

Published 06/04/2016 | 02:30

The scene of the Berkeley balcony tragedy which claimed the lives of six young Irish students: Ashley Donohoe, Olivia Burke, Lorcan Miller, Eoghan Culligan, Nick Schuster, and Eimear Walsh. Photo: REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
The scene of the Berkeley balcony tragedy which claimed the lives of six young Irish students: Ashley Donohoe, Olivia Burke, Lorcan Miller, Eoghan Culligan, Nick Schuster, and Eimear Walsh. Photo: REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

Blame for the Berkeley balcony collapse is being thrown around in a most unedifying manner.

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Half of the 32 defendants named in a civil action being taken by survivors and relatives of the dead have filed defence papers in response to damages lawsuits expected to be heard in California later this year.

Every single one of these firms, who were either involved in the ownership, management, construction or design of the ill-fated Library Gardens building, does not believe they have a case to answer.

At least 10 of the companies being sued are trying to have the lawsuits significantly watered down, limiting the amount of damages that may have to be paid.

Most of the defendants are quick to point the finger of blame elsewhere - most commonly at unnamed co-defendants or parties who have not been sued.

Four firms have even suggested that the victims may somehow have contributed to the collapse of the balcony.

The submissions are remarkably insensitive to families who are still grieving and the young Irish students who survived but are still coming to terms with life-altering injuries.

Heartache

It is an allegation guaranteed to cause them even further heartache.

The most definitive submission, in terms of blame-throwing, has been made by a company called TCA Architects.

It firmly pointed the finger at the construction contractors who put together the balcony.

The filing points to the failure of contractors to use plywood.

They opted instead for a material called OSB, which is said to be more susceptible to water damage, water infiltration and early deterioration and rot.

Unsurprisingly, the construction companies don't accept this point of view.

With millions of dollars at stake, no one is willing to put up their hands and admit responsibility.

It all points to a long, drawn-out legal case, where no one accepts the blame.

Irish Independent

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