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Payout agreed over Berkeley balcony tragedy

Payout agreed over Berkeley balcony tragedy

SURVIVORS of the Berkeley balcony collapse, and relatives of the six students who died, have reached out-of-court settlements with a number of companies involved in the construction of the building.

Eoghan Culligan, Olivia Burke, Ashley Donohoe, Lorcan Miller, Nick Schuster and Eimear Walsh

The settlements were reached after civil suits for damages were filed in California in the aftermath of the tragedy, which claimed the lives of five Irish J-1 students and one Irish-American woman in June 2015.

San Francisco-based lawyer Matthew Davis told the Herald settlements had been reached with a number of companies, the terms of which will remain confidential.

He said it would never “restore health or life but reflects an element of justice” for the loss of life and life-long injuries sustained in the collapse. As a result of the settlements, the lawsuits against those companies will be dropped.

However, lawsuits remain open against a number of other defendants in the case, including the property’s owner, trillion-dollar fund BlackRock, and the company that managed the building, Greystar.

Irish students Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Lorcan Miller, Niccolai Schuster and Eimear Walsh (all 21) died in the collapse, as did Ms Burke’s Irish-American cousin Ashley Donohoe (22).

Mr Davis’s firm, Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger, represented all of the surviving victims of the collapse and relatives of five of those who died.

“A number of defendants involved in the design and construction of the balcony which collapsed at Berkeley’s Library Gardens apartment complex have agreed to settlement terms with the seven injured students and the families of the six deceased students. The amount is confidential,”

Mr Davis said in a statement. “This settlement will never restore health or life but reflects an element of justice from the wrongdoers for the deaths and serious injuries caused by the tragedy.

“The litigation continues to proceed against other defendants, including the apartment complex’s corporate owner and property manager. A trial date has been set for early 2018.

“We will not have any further comment on behalf of our 12 sets of clients.”

Eustace de St Phalle, a lawyer representing Ms Donohoe’s parents, released a similarly worded statement, confirming a settlement had been reached on their behalf.

The families and survivors alleged there were deficiencies in the construction of the balcony and failings by the property’s owners and management company to ensure the balcony was safe.

They claim action was not taken despite reports being made of mould, an indicator that the balcony had suffered water damage.

One of those making a settlement was Segue Construction, the main contractor for the building.

The California Contractors State Licence Board revoked the company’s licence earlier this year.

A company involved in waterproofing the balcony, and another which was alleged to have tested the waterproofing, were also among those who made settlements.

The students died after they were thrown four floors to the ground during a friend’s 21st birthday party in the university city of Berkeley.

Students Clodagh Cogley, Aoife Beary, Sean Fahey, Conor Flynn, Jack Halpin, Niall Murray and Hannah Waters all suffered serious injuries in the incident.

Dry rot caused by water damage to the supporting joists under the balcony was blamed for the collapse.