News

Builder of Berkeley balcony has paid millions in balcony suits

NewsBy Shuki Byrne
The investigation surrounding the balcony collapse has now focused on the company behind the construction of the building
The investigation surrounding the balcony collapse has now focused on the company behind the construction of the building

The construction company behind the building of the apartment complex in Berkeley has paid out millions in balcony lawsuits in previous years, it has been revealed.

The investigation surrounding the balcony collapse has now focused on the company behind the construction of the building,  Segue Construction Inc.

A report in the San Francisco Chronicle claims the firm has paid more than $6 million in the past two years to settle lawsuits claiming its work caused balconies to rot prematurely and fail.

Court documents reveal the company that built the complex has paid approximately $6.5 million since 2013 to settle two lawsuits, both of which alleged similar construction problems at the centre of the Berkeley investigation. 

Rotted wooden beams were the likely cause of the Berkeley balcony collapse that killed six students, the US city's mayor said yesterday. 

Tom Bates said initial findings by investigators suggested the wood was not properly caulked and sealed when the building was being constructed. It is believed the supports were damaged by moisture as a result.

"More than likely, it was caused by rain and water damage that was caused to the support beams," the mayor said.

Independent experts told the San Francisco publication that it appeared that rainwater had penetrated the balcony’s wood structure, causing dry rot, which can occur over several years. 

The complex was less than a decade old and was completed in 2007. 

According to court filings, Segue Construction paid $3 million in 2014 to settle a lawsuit over “water penetration” problems on dozens of balconies on a San Jose apartment complex. 

In another lawsuit in 2010, the owners of a building accused Segue of “failing to design the breezeways, private balconies and stairwells at the project in substantial compliance with all applicable local and state codes and according to industry standard.”

Segue blamed the problems on a subcontractor before settling with the apartment building’s owner, the publication said. 

A spokesperson for the company said they had a very good reputation and had constructed "6,000 apartments" and had "never had an incident" like the one in Berkeley before. 

Segue spokesman Sam Singer said such litigation is common on large projects and "has no bearing on the tragedy" in Berkeley.

"They are completely different projects. They are completely different types of balconies," he said. Singer said of the balcony collapse: "Segue Construction has never had an incident like this in its history."