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Berkeley balcony collapse: Settlement reached with owners and property managers of complex

Six students were killed when the balcony at the Blackrock Library Gardens complex collapsed.

Workmen inspect the beams of the balcony in June 2015.
Workmen inspect the beams of the balcony in June 2015.
Image: Laura A. Oda

A SETTLEMENT HAS been reached in connection with the fatal collapse of an apartment balcony in Berkeley, California in 2015.

Six students were killed when the balcony structure at the Blackrock Library Gardens apartment complex collapsed. Seven others were injured.

According to the law firm Rains Lucia Stern, which represents the parents of 22-year-old Ashley Donohoe of Rohnert Park, California, a “partial settlement has been reached with the Greystar defendants who were responsible for the management of the property and the various inspections; and the Blackrock defendants who owned the apartment complex”.

Earlier this year, a number of the defendants involved in the design and construction of the balcony that collapsed at the complex agreed to pay compensation to the seven injured students and the families of the six students who died.

After those claims were resolved, the focus turned to the remaining potentially responsible parties.

“The Donohoe family has now settled with the property owners, Blackrock, and the property management company, Greystar, as part of the process of holding all potentially responsible parties accountable for this tragedy,” Joseph R Lucia of Rains Lucia Stern said in a statement.

The settlement amount is confidential, but the fact that there is a settlement is not. According to the law firm’s statement, the parties are otherwise free to speak about the circumstances of the June 16, 2015 tragedy.

“The Donohoe family was insistent that there could be no ‘Secret Settlement’ designed to prevent the parties from discussing the facts of the case and what they believe to be the cause of this tragedy,” lawyer Eustace de Saint Phalle said.

‘We will continue our fight’

According to the statement, the most important factor of this settlement for the Donohoe family is that they will be allowed to continue their efforts in the state legislature to avoid a tragedy like this from happening again.

“Nothing will stop us from continuing our fight to have changes made to the California building codes and regulations to require regular inspections by qualified people, proper design and use of proper construction materials, and a ban on ‘Secret Settlements’ that allow contractors to hide defective construction work from the contractors licensing board and the public,” the Donohoe family said.

Lawyer Eustace de Saint Phalle added:

Regardless of whether this case comes to completion in the US legal system, the Donohoe family will continue to fight for changes.  They feel this is necessary to prevent another tragedy, not just for Californians but for all the J-1 Visa students who will come here in the future.

“Nothing will ever replace our daughter, our niece or the other four students who died that night,” the Donohoe family said.

After this tragedy, I would hope all that were involved will join us in our efforts to ensure there are proper changes to the building codes and regulations in California related to annual inspections, balcony design, construction materials and the prevention of ‘Secret Settlements’ that allow negligent contractors to hide their bad conduct.

Irish students Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Shuster, Lorcan Miller and Eimear Walsh also died when the balcony collapsed during a party at the apartment. All were aged 21 or 22.

A settlement was reached with the companies involved in the construction of the building in May of this year.

Read: ‘If this balcony had been built as designed, this would not have happened’ >

Read: ‘I miss my friends so much’: Berkeley balcony survivor speaks out about tragedy >

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