Student sues UC Regents for ‘life-altering injuries’ after accident in Chou Hall

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Daniel Kim/File

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Raja Riahi, a student at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, filed a lawsuit against the UC Board of Regents, Peninsulators Inc. and Vance Brown Builders Inc., on the grounds of “dangerous condition of public property” and “negligence.”

Riahi was struck in the head by a large metal beam on Feb. 4 while adjusting blinds attached to a window covering in Room 314 of Connie and Kevin Chou Hall. The lawsuit was filed Tuesday at the Alameda County Superior Courthouse.

“(Riahi) wasn’t doing anything wrong. … It’s profound how much his life has changed,” said Katie McIver, Riahi’s attorney.

In addition, the lawsuit claimed that the defendants are responsible for the “negligent conduct of their employees and agents” and “defective conditions,” such as the improper storage and constraints of objects, improper storage techniques, improper training of employees and improper safety measures.

UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore declined to comment on the lawsuit specifically.

“Campus workers routinely inspect and engage in preventative maintenance for buildings across the campus,” Gilmore said in an email. “In instances where injuries do occur the university investigates the cause and takes appropriate actions to help further ensure safety within that facility.”

According to the lawsuit, the conditions of the metal beam “created a dangerous condition and trap for individuals” and the defendant public entities are “indebted … upon their failure to protect and provide adequate safeguards and warnings,” such as cones, ropes, caution signs and other signals alerting the public.

The lawsuit states that Riahi was affected because of negligence in the inspection, maintenance, use, operation, construction, lack of repair, ownership and control of the metal beam.

Riahi “suffered serious and life-altering injuries,” impacting his health, strength and activity, according to the lawsuit. He specifically sustained injuries that have caused him “mental, physical, and nervous pain and suffering,” according to the lawsuit.

Riahi has been diagnosed with a severe concussion that has interfered with his cognition, forcing him to lighten his coursework and making it difficult for him to understand academic material, McIver said.

Riahi has also experienced “anguish, fright, nervousness, grief, anxiety, worry, indignity, embarrassment, apprehension, and loss of quality life” according to the court docket.

Riahi is demanding “a trial by jury on all causes of action,” according to the lawsuit.

“These cases can take up to two years to get before a jury,” McIver said.

The lawsuit says Riahi is seeking compensation for general damages, economic damages, medical and related expenses, loss of earnings, loss of earning capacity and cost of suit.

“The safety of our students and all members of our campus is a top priority for the university” Gilmore said.

Contact Aarya Gupta at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @aaryagupta.