California Balcony Fall Victims Settle with Building Owner

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BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Relatives of six college students who died when a balcony collapsed in Berkeley, California, have reached a settlement with the owners of the apartment building and the company that managed it, it was announced Monday.

Terms of the lawsuit settlement with owner BlackRock and management firm Greystar were confidential.

The settlement also applies to seven students who were injured.

Another settlement was reached in May with companies that designed and built the building. BlackRock and Greystar did not agree to a settlement at that time so the lawsuits continued.

The students, mostly from Ireland, were at a June 2015 birthday party at the Library Gardens — now called K Street Flats — when the fourth-floor balcony collapsed and sent them 50 feet (15 meters) down to the street.

Previous tenants reported seeing mushrooms on the balcony, indicating rotting wood and that was confirmed by a city inspection.

“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 by BlackRock and Greystar, said a joint statement on behalf of the companies and the plaintiffs.

Both companies have adopted new policies and procedures for balcony inspections.

“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,” the statement said.

The dead included cousins Olivia Burke of Ireland and Ashley Donohoe of California.

The settlement doesn’t prevent the Donohoe family from continuing to push for state building codes and reporting requirements for shoddy work, according to their attorney, Eustace de Saint Phalle.

“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,” a family statement said.

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