Thursday 18 January 2018

US legal proceedings are expected to continue for months

The collapsed balcony at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley Credit: AP
The collapsed balcony at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley Credit: AP
Berkeley court filings
Berkeley court papers
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Despite a court decision to streamline 13 lawsuits by the families of victims and survivors of the Berkeley balcony tragedy, legal proceedings in the US are still expected to be lengthy and could continue for several months.

The combining of the cases in front of the same judge will remove the need for expert witnesses to have to give evidence several times over.

However, there are likely to be a considerable number of pre-trial motions and procedural wrangling over documentary evidence and witness testimony is expected.

Things could be even further complicated if, as expected, some of the 35 defendants begin suing each other.

The defendants include several contractors involved in the construction of the balcony, as well as architects and engineers.

Should one party seek to shift the blame onto another, it could lead to additional lawsuits.

A decision would then have to be taken on whether the same court could hear this additional side litigation.

The civil cases, six for unlawful death and seven for personal injuries, are separate from a criminal investigation also under way.

Earlier this week at a preliminary hearing, a judge in Oakland, California, agreed to combine all 13 lawsuits to save time and unnecessary hardship on the litigants.

The next hearing in the case will be on January 8 when another judge will hear preliminary motions prior to commencement of the case proper.

Irish Independent

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