Sometimes, the line between criminal negligence and civil negligence can be very fine. Most people in California are aware of the balcony collapse in Berkeley. In 2015, six students from Ireland were killed, and some have wondered if the mishap involved criminal negligence.
In a decision announced on March 28, 2016, the Alameda County prosecutor announced that no criminal charges would be brought against any party involved in the case. The announcement, however, does not terminate the other construction litigation spawned by the collapse.
During a party, on June 16, 2015, the balcony tore away from the wall and fell five stories. Six students who were standing on the balcony were killed. A 9-month investigation by engineering experts determined that water infiltration during construction and caused dry rot in the joists and other parts of the wooden framing that secured the balcony to the exterior wall. Investigators subjected parts of the structure to destructive testing, talked to witnesses and reviewed building plans, logs and inspection and maintenance records.
The county attorney said that the evidence did not support a charge of involuntary manslaughter against any of the parties involved. Even though criminal charges will not be made, the evidence obtained in the investigation will be available to the families of the victims in their civil cases against the architect, contractor, subcontractors and other parties involved in design and construction of the building.
The length and scope of the investigation in this case demonstrates the complexity of litigation involving a construction defects. Such cases demand legal experience and expertise. A knowledge attorney who specializes in such cases can provide a necessary analysis of the facts, a blueprint for an investigation and an enumeration of legal strategies that can maximize the chances for a successful outcome.
Source: Orange County Register, “No charges to be filed in Berkeley balcony collapse,” Kristin Bender, March 29, 2016