Last summer, Californians and the nation watched in disbelief as the story of the Berkeley balcony collapse unfolded. Six people died and many others were injured in the tragedy. The pictures were shocking and made many of us think twice before stepping out onto our own balconies and terraces. Some ten months later, lawmakers and others are trying to figure out what went wrong. As a San Francisco construction law firm committed to helping people injured or left grieving by dangerous structures, the Brod Law Firm is following the developments.
State Senate Looks at Safety Records and State Law in Balcony Collapse Review
As KPIX reports, a California State Senate subcommittee is looking into what caused the deadly balcony collapse last June. State Senator Jerry Hill focused the discussion on the history of the construction company that has been accused of performing shoddy construction that allegedly led to the structural failure. Hill noted that the company has paid some $26.5 million to settle construction defect cases in the past.
While architects and engineers and required to report such settlements to their regulating boards, there is no such requirement for contractors. KPIX reports that Hill and his colleague State Senator Loni Hancock have introduced a bill to change that and require contractors to report certain settlements to the licensing authority. While the Chief of Enforcement for the Contractors State License Board says that such reports could trigger an investigation into the contractor’s compliance with building code rules, industry representatives say lawsuits are not an accurate gauge of craftsmanship. A member of the Southern California Contractors Association suggested settlements are more indicative of an overly litigious state than any actual failure on behalf of contractors and another industry spokesman.
As a matter of law, we note that in many cases defendants entering into settlements do not admit to any wrongdoing. In fact, many settlements specifically note that the defendant continues to deny wrongdoing. Therefore, settlements cannot be considered proof of fault in any specific case. Still, we find in concerning when a company faces repeated claims and we agree with the final line in KPIX’s report: “Nevertheless, lawmakers say how much a builder pays in settlements may not be evidence of fault, but it probably shouldn’t be ignored, either.”
Key Types of Construction Defects
Addressing potential clients for their commercial insurance products, Travelers highlights four forms of construction defects:
- Design Deficiencies – In these instances, the problem typically traces back to a failure in the design conceived by the structure’s architects and/or engineers (ex. failing to provide adequate structural support);
- Material Deficiencies – The problem in these instances is defective or damaged building materials, including items that do not last as long as they should;
- Construction Deficiencies – These are failures in the actual process of building the structure, such as shoddy workmanship that allows water to seep in and damage a structure;
- Operational/Maintenance Deficiencies – In these cases, the issues occur after the structure is complete and can include the failure of a building owner to maintain the property in an appropriate manner.
While the legal world divides these cases a bit differently, these categories are useful in determining who is at fault when a defect leads to tragedy.
A California Structural Defect Lawyer Helping the Injured Seek Compensation Following Construction Failures
California law provides several routes for those injured in balcony collapses and other building failures to seek compensation. Often, the appropriate claim depends on the specific party at fault with architects and engineers held to a particularly high standard. This makes the investigation process and the decision of who to sue and what claims to bring extremely important. Our team works with knowledgeable experts to uncover the facts and uses our decades of legal experience to help the injured and/or the grieving recover compensation and seek justice.
If you or a family member suffered an injury because of a balcony collapse or other building failure, call our Northern California construction lawyer in Oakland, Santa Rosa, or San Francisco. Remember — the sooner you call, the more evidence we can find to help you. We can help with individual suits as well as serve as counsel in California construction defect class actions.
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(Image by Sharat Ganapati)