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Fatal California balcony collapse possibly caused by rotted wood

Some cases involving premises liability involve relatively minor injuries such as those sustained in a slip-and-fall. But some premises liability cases involve much more serious injuries and even death. A recent example is the balcony collapse in that killed six University of California students.

According to the investigation that followed the collapse, city officials found that the wooden beams that were supposed to support the structure had extensive rotting caused by water damage. The concrete balcony was on the fifth floor of the building which contributed to the serious and fatal injuries. 

Within days of the tragic event, city officials began to look at ways to prevent further incidents. Some of those measures include methods of protecting balconies from excess moisture and more frequent inspections of properties. Another proposed regulation recommends that balconies and other areas that may be affected by exposure to weather be well-ventilated to allow for proper drying of wet surfaces. The rules also call for inspections every six months of parts of buildings that are exposed to weather and inspections every five years for other structural issues.

Part of the concern of city officials may be due to the fact that the building plans, including the balconies, were in compliance with building codes when it was opened in 2007.  But even if the apartment complex remedies the structural issues found after the collapse to avoid future incidents, that evidence cannot be used in court to imply wrongdoing on the part of the property owners. The California Evidence Code says that remedial measures are inadmissible to prove negligence or other culpable behavior that might have caused the event.

The inability to present that evidence removes one basis that a plaintiff might use to establish fault on the part of the defendant property owner. The advice of an attorney who handles California premises liability cases can be crucial to using other evidence to recover damages for death or injuries.

Source: New York Times, "Report Cites Dry-Rotting in Collapse of Balcony in Berkeley," Jennifer Medina, June 23, 2015

Secondary Source: Findlaw, California Evidence Code §1151

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Law Offices of William W. Green & Associates
505 S. Villa Real
Anaheim, CA 92807

Phone: 714-464-6903
Toll Free: 866-543-7598
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