Tuesday 20 February 2018

Owner of Berkeley building can be sued over balcony collapse, court rules

Workmen examine the balcony following the tragedy in 2015. AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
Workmen examine the balcony following the tragedy in 2015. AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Dorothy Atkins and Shane Phelan

The company which owns the building where the Berkeley balcony tragedy occurred has failed to extract itself from a lawsuit alleging it was liable for defects.

A Californian judge ruled that Granite Library Gardens LP, which is owned by trillion-dollar investment fund Blackrock Inc, cannot exit the lawsuit because it had assumed liability for the property's defects when it entered into a contract with the original owners in September 2005.

The collapse of a balcony at the Library Gardens building in June last year claimed the lives of five Irish and one Irish-American student and seriously injured seven other Irish students.

At a hearing in Oakland on Tuesday, Judge Brad Seligman found that Granite Library Gardens LP cannot quickly get out of a lawsuit.

He was ruling on an application brought by roofing company IRC Technologies Inc, which is itself one of 32 businesses - all involved in the ownership, management and construction of the building - being sued by survivors and relatives of the dead.

A number of the defendants have also been suing each other as a blame game rages over who was responsible for the tragedy.

Granite had argued that it was not liable for construction defects, because the contract applied to negligence only during the construction of the building.

But IRC Technologies argued that the contract encompassed negligence by the owner in maintaining and operating the building even after its construction was complete.

"That interpretation makes sense," Judge Seligman said.

IRC Technologies is one of four companies which have suggested in legal filings that the students may have been in some way partly responsible for the collapse "due to having failed or neglected to use reasonable care".

The allegations are set to be hotly contested by lawyers for the survivors and families of the dead.

Irish Independent

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