Dublin and California families settle almost all lawsuits following worst tragedies involving young Irish people living abroad

The families of six college students who died in a balcony collapse, at an apartment complex in Berkeley California have reached a settlement with the owners of the apartment building, Blackrock, and the management firm, Grey Star.

The terms of the settlement are confidential, but it is known that it also applies to seven of the other student injured on the night of June 16, 2015. The Irish Times reports that the “figure is said to total a substantial multi-million-dollar sum.”

The students, mostly from Dublin and staying in the US on a J-1 work visa, were celebrating a 21st birthday at the Library Gardens apartment complex. The fourth floor balcony collapsed and the students fell 15 meters onto the street.

The balcony was found to be built with wood and suffering from serious dry rot.

Families of Berkeley balcony collapse victims reach settlement https://t.co/WWilPiVIlv pic.twitter.com/zk9zvrxHHU

— Irish Examiner (@irishexaminer) November 21, 2017

Dublin students Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Lorcán Miller, Nick Schuster and Eimear Walsh, all 21, and Burke’s cousin, who was Irish American, Ashley Donohoe, aged 22, died. Another seven students – Aoife Beary, Clodagh Cogley, Seán Fahey, Conor Flynn, Jack Halpin, Niall Murray and Hannah Waters – suffered serious injuries in the fall.

Previous tenants at the J-1 student’s apartment reported seeing mushroom on the balcony, this indicates rotting wood. This was confirmed by city inspection.

Another settlement was reached in May, by the families, with the companies who designed and built the building. New York-based BlackRock and California-based Greystar did not agree to a settlement at that time so the lawsuits continued.

Sadly, it emerged after the 2015 balcony collapse tragedy that the construction company, responsible for the building, Segue, had already paid out millions to settle past claims about rotted balconies and building defects.

According to a joined statement by Blackrock and Greystar “Design defects and construction flaws” allowed water to penetrate the balcony’s wooden support, which was enclosed by stucco so that the problem wasn’t discovered during inspections. Both companies have now adopted new policies and procedures for balcony inspections.

The statement continued “The parties also have agreed to work to promote greater awareness of balcony safety issues and take appropriate actions to prevent future tragedies of this nature.”

Their lawyer, Eustace de Saint Phalle, said the most recent settlement does not prevent the Donohue family, from California, from continuing their push for change on state building codes and reporting shoddy work.

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

Of more than 30 defendants sued, a single subcontractor involved in building the apartment block, a decade ago, has refused to settle. They are the only remaining defendant before the courts.

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