Irish Daily Mail


- By Ben Haugh

VICTIMS of the Berkeley tragedy and their families could receive millions of dollars in damages if they lodge a civil lawsuit against the owner of the building.

And a US law firm which secured a multi-million dollar settlement for victims of a balcony collapse in Chicago – the deadliest i n the country’s history – claimed the Irish families may have a strong case.

Thirteen young people died and more than 30 were injured when a third-floor balcony collapsed in the Lincoln Park neighbourh­ood of Chicago on July 29, 2003.

US personal injury law firm Corboy and Demetrio, which represente­d 14 of the victims and their families, secured a settlement of $16.6million. Francis Patrick Murphy, a partner in the firm, argued there is a ‘big property management company’ involved in the Berkeley tragedy, ‘ unlike Lincoln Park, where there was only a limited amount of money’.

Mr Murphy added: ‘The City of Berkeley has come out and said there was the presence of excessive dry rot in the wooden support beams. They did not come to the conclusion that the dry rot was the cause because they didn’t want to get into the blame game. But it is the cause of why this porch fell.’

Mr Murphy declined to estimate how much damages could be paid out in this case but said it would be ‘ si gnificant’. He added: ‘ The damages centre on lost income and loss of love, affection companions­hip and guidance.’

Thomas Demetrio, who is one of the founding partners of the firm, explained: ‘What the families would have to show would be four things; a duty to maintain the property; negligence; proximate cause; and that there were injuries.’

He added: ‘A properly maintained porch will last for aeons.

‘We know that the porch collapsed and that six individual­s died, so this particular type of case is not very difficult to show to the jury that there is liability and then the jury would have to decide what is the value of these individual­s to their families and loved ones – their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters.

‘And t hat’s s omething t hat American juries do all the time. It’s a strong case and a very serious cause because of the death of these individual­s, and the facts support liability in this situation.’

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