Families of balcony collapse victims, survivors file lawsuits

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Alvin Wu/File

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Bereaved families and surviving victims of the June balcony collapse have filed a total of 13 civil lawsuits against the building’s owner and manager as well as the construction firm that built the balcony.

Filed by eight surviving victims and five of the six grieving families, the lawsuits allege negligence on the part of the firms — namely BlackRock Associates LLC, an investment company, and Greystar, a real estate management company  — that designed, built, owned and managed Library Gardens, the apartment complex located at 2020 Kittredge St. where the balcony collapse occurred. The plaintiffs are suing the firms for allegedly skipping crucial steps in order to save money and ignoring “red flags” that the balcony was unsafe.

According to court documents, Segue Construction, Inc. — which has previously been involved in multiple lawsuits for allegedly failing to meet construction codes — used cheaper materials than the original plans called for. The documents further add that the partially completed building was exposed to months of rain during its construction in 2005.

According to a statement from Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger, the law firm representing the plaintiffs, waterproofing measures sealed moisture from rain inside the balcony’s deck, which the law firm said caused the wood rot that led to the balcony’s collapse.

The families allege that BlackRock and Greystar ignored signs of the problem, including large mushrooms found by tenants of the apartment between 2008-10 that were growing from the balcony’s surface and the moisture-induced rot on the wooden support joists that supported the balcony.

“It is our clients’ hope … that as a result of the disclosure of the wrongdoing, appropriate industry, legislative and other responses will be undertaken to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future,” said the plaintiffs’ lawyers in the statement.

The family of the only American victim in the collapse, Ashley Donohoe, is not included in the lawsuits and is not represented by the same firm.

The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office is in the midst of its criminal investigation.

Sally Littlefield is the lead crime and courts reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @slittlefield3.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that 12 lawsuits had been filed by the families of victims. In fact, 13 lawsuits have been filed, as Ashley Donohoe’s family filed a lawsuit Nov. 13, one day after the original 12.