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Contractor facing serious liability after balcony collapse

People in California may have heard about a tragic incident in Berkeley last month where 13 young adults had gathered at a friend's apartment. They were all outside on the patio enjoying the California climate when suddenly the balcony gave way, sending them hurtling towards the ground dozens of feet below. All told, six victims died in the balcony collapse, leaving others injured and many mourners looking for answers.

Perhaps the party some might think liable would be the construction company responsible for construction of the apartment unit. The California-based construction outfit has issued several statements and have taken immediate action to deal with the situation, but nonetheless their involvement in this tragedy has really just begun, and could very well end in lawsuits and potential payouts to the victims and their families.

Preliminary investigations show that the likely cause of the balcony collapse was rotten wooden support planks which may have been weakened and deteriorated due to water penetration. The weakened wooden supports may have snapped under the weight of the balcony occupants, giving way without warning.

It turns out this was not the company's first run-in with faulty balconies. Just two years ago they settled claims about balcony construction on another California condo unit for $3.4 million. History shows that the company has also dealt with water intrusion problems and construction litigation regarding other developments built by the company, a fact that could be very problematic for them in this scenario. The fact that they may have known of these construction defects, but failed to properly remediate or repair them beforehand, could be a serious blow against them when it comes to determining liability in court or mediation with the victims. The company has said that is has built numerous apartments and that this is the first incident of its kind with which they have dealt, and there may be further defenses available to it.

Source: Daily Mail "Builders who erected Berkeley balcony that collapsed and killed six students have already paid out $6.5m in compensation for construction failures," June 19, 2015

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