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Families of Irish students killed in Berkeley balcony collapse to sue over negligence

Previous tenants reported seeing mushrooms growing but management didn’t close the structure off, the lawsuit claims.

Neil Sands of the Irish Network Bay Area places a flag of Ireland over wreaths at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley.
Neil Sands of the Irish Network Bay Area places a flag of Ireland over wreaths at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley.
Image: Associated Press

PREVIOUS TENANTS REPORTED seeing mushrooms — a clear sign of rot — on the Berkeley balcony that collapsed killing six students, but the building’s management did not close the structure off, according to lawsuits filed in California yesterday.

The 12 lawsuits filed in Alameda County by the families of five Irish students who died and seven people who were injured in the June collapse accuse the building manager, Greystar, the building owner, BlackRock, and the construction firm that built the balcony, Segue, of negligence.

They suits seek unspecified damages.

“Our clients have authorised the filing of these claims with the hope that this litigation will bring to light the carelessness and negligence that caused this entirely avoidable tragedy that has produced so much pain and loss, both here and in Ireland,” the law firm handling the suits, Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger, said in a statement.

Segue used cheaper materials to construct the balcony, making it more susceptible to water damage, and left it exposed to rain during construction in 2005, the lawsuit says.

A city investigation following the collapse revealed wooden supporting beams on the balcony were rotted through from water damage.

A call after-hours to Segue was not immediately returned, nor was an email to Greystar.

BlackRock spokesman Brian Beades said the company had not reviewed the lawsuit, and might have comment later.

The balcony gave way during a birthday party. The six who died and another seven young people were thrown 50 feet down to the street below.

The Alameda County district attorney has been conducting an investigation to determine if criminal charges are warranted.

President Michael D. Higgins met with Berkeley’s mayor and public safety workers last month to thank them for helping after the balcony collapsed.

Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger is representing 12 families. The parents of Ashley Donohoe, who are based in California, are suing the companies involved via another law firm - Rains Lucia Stern, RTÉ reports. 

Comments on this article have been closed as legal proceedings are under way. 

- Associated Press with additional reporting from Daragh Brophy. 

Read: Families attend Berkeley balcony testing as legal battles loom

Read: President Higgins will plant a tree in honour of Berkeley victims during US trip

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