September 19, 2018
CONTACT: Eustace de Saint Phalle (925) 609-1699 EdeSaintPhalle@RLSlawyers.com
After six young people died in a balcony collapse that occurred in Berkeley on June 16, 2015, Ms. Jackie Donohoe, the mother of one of the young women who passed away in the tragedy, set out on a mission to make balconies safer for all California residents and visitors. The culmination of Ms. Donohoe’s efforts came to fruition yesterday evening when Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1465 into law, which will end the practice of “secret settlements” by requiring contractors in California to inform the contractors’ licensing board whenever they settle lawsuits related to negligent construction work or defective conditions for 1 million dollars or more, regardless of whether there is a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement. This means the construction industry can no longer hide its negligent conduct in “secrete settlements” and limit the information from going to the contractors’ licensing board to prevent a state investigation.
The passage of bill 1465, and Senate Bill 721 earlier this week, which mandates state-certified safety inspections for balconies in California, is largely due to the inspirational work and unwavering commitment of Ms. Donohoe. “I want to thank Governor Brown for signing these two bills into law and putting public safety ahead of the moneyed interests of the for-profit construction industry. Nothing can be done to bring back my daughter, Ashley, or my niece Olivia and their four friends, but today, by requiring safety inspections for balconies and more transparency for the construction industry, we have taken a step in the right direction towards preventing another tragedy,” said Ms. Donohoe.
“Jackie Donohoe’s story of legislative success is a testament to the fact that one individual with a righteous goal can make real positives changes for society despite facing influential corporate opposition.” said Brendan Gannon, an associate attorney at Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle and Silver, PC. The construction industry in California fought against the introduction of the requirement for basic safety inspections for balconies as now mandated in Senate Bill 721, and it’s paid lobbyists tried to prevent the implementation of the transparency rules for the construction industry that are required by Senate Bill 1465. “Up until the passage of Senate Bill 1465, construction contractors were allowed to make cases for negligent work and construction defects disappear from the public sphere through the practice of secret settlements.” said Joseph Lucia, an associate attorney at Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle and Silver, PC.
With the passage of Senate Bill 1465, it will now become public knowledge when a contractor’s dangerous work causes it to settle a lawsuit for 1 million dollars or more due to the mandatory reporting requirements of this Bill. Largely thanks to the dedication of Ms. Donohoe, the public in California and the contractors’ licensing board will now better be able to distinguish the safe contractors from the unsafe contractors. Additionally, Senate Bill 721 will ensure that at least 15% of all exterior elevated balconies on multi-unit apartments in California will have their weight bearing elements and structures tested once every six years by qualified, state-licensed architects, structural engineers, and building inspectors. “These two bills are a crucial legislative effort to make our state safer. We need to have safety regulations placed on the construction industry to make sure that the public is not exposed to dangerous conditions of faulty construction work. I commend Ms. Donohoe and everything that she has done for creating a common sense approach to addressing the issues that led to the tragedy with Berkeley balcony collapse.” said the Donohoe family’s attorney, Eustace de Saint Phalle of Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle and Silver, PC.
A tragedy like the one that occurred in Berkeley on June 16, 2015, where Ms. Donohoe’s daughter, Ashley, and five other young people from Ireland lost their lives, should never happen in California again. “It was an honor to represent the Donohoe family in their case against the parties responsible for the Berkeley balcony collapse, and I applaud Ms. Donohoe for her commitment to making California a safer state. Safety inspections for balconies and more transparency for the construction industry will help prevent another disastrous loss of life, and we should all thank Ms. Donohoe for that,” said Joseph Lucia, an associate attorney at Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle and Silver, PC.
Now that Governor Brown has signed Senate Bills 721 and 1465 into law, the process of employing the safety inspections for balconies and mandatory reporting of large construction industry settlements will begin. “What Ms. Donohoe has achieved is really quite remarkable, and it is a David vs. Goliath story. The safety inspections for balconies and the mandatory reporting of million dollar settlements will help prevent another tragedy like the one that occurred in Berkeley. The contractors’ licensing board, and the public, will no longer be prevented from investigating the facts of big construction industry settlements. We owe Ms. Donohoe a debt of gratitude,” said Eustace de Saint Phalle of Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle and Silver, PC.
Jackie Donohoe’s efforts have led to the passage of legislation that will make California safer for its residents and visitors. “It has always been my goal to make sure no other family’s loved one is taken away because of a dangerously constructed balcony. Governor Brown did the right thing, and for that I am pleased. I want to thank everyone who supported me through this process, including Jerry Hill, the Irish Consulate, Irish Government, family, friends, and my attorneys at Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle and Silver. We have made this state a little safer, and that is a good thing,’ said Ms. Donohoe.