Berkeley balcony collapse case hearing in California court

Lawyers anticipate more lawsuits against owner, builders and manager of building

A preliminary hearing was held on Tuesday in the law suit being taken by the families of those killed and injured in the Berkeley balcony collapse.

Details of the case were discussed when judge Brad Seligman met with attorneys for both sides.

Last month the case was consolidated and granted "complex" status - an action under California law aimed at streamlining complicated cases which require exceptional judicial management.

The balcony collapse in Berkeley last June killed six Irish students and left another seven seriously injured.


There are at least 13 pending lawsuits related to the fourth-floor balcony collapse last June at a unit near the University of California’s Berkeley campus.

All but one of the students killed or injured in the collapse were from Ireland and staying in Berkeley on a J-1 visa.

“We’re at a very early stage” of the case, the judge said, who did not issue any formal rulings at the hearing. A new hearing to discuss the details of the case will take place on February 23rd.

The judge also said he was a little unclear on the nature of the agreed-upon consolidation - namely, whether it contemplates all pre-trial purposes, or for all purposes related to the trial.

The exact nature of the consolidation is to be determined later.

Lawyers for one of the survivors have previously said they anticipate additional lawsuits against the owner, builders and manager of the Berkeley building and more than 30 other companies to be filed on behalf of the students who rented the unit where the collapse occurred.

The San Francisco-based law firm Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger represents all but one of wrongful death plaintiffs and all seven injured plaintiffs; all of whom are from Ireland.

Another San Francisco-based law firm, Rains Lucia Stern, represents the wrongful death plaintiffs who reside in California.

The defendants in the case include Segue Construction, the California-based company that built the balcony.

In addition to the lawsuits, Segue and other parties might face a criminal investigation by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, which has jurisdiction over Berkeley.

An attorney for the plaintiffs pointed out on Tuesday that the site of the collapse remains under the control of the District Attorney’s office.

District Attorney Nancy O’Malley stated last year that officials would look into what degree of negligence could be demonstrated, a move that could possibly lead to involuntary manslaughter charges against the defendants.

“We understand the District Attorney’s office has invested a substantial amount of time and substantial resources” to investigating the collapse, the plaintiff attorney said.

It remains unclear how the litigation into the balcony collapse would be affected in the event the District Attorney’s office were to bring criminal charges against any or all of the defendants.

An attorney for the plaintiffs refused to speculate as to any possible scenarios that could arise.