On the evening of September 17, 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 721 into law, thus requiring mandatory safety inspections for balconies in California. Jackie Donohoe, the mother of one of the young adults who died in the now infamous June 16, 2015 Berkeley balcony collapse, was greatly encouraged by news of the legislative result that she has been fighting for since the tragic passing of her daughter. Ms. Donohoe has been the driving force behind this legislation.
Although nothing can be done to bring back Ashley Donohoe, Ms. Donohoe’s daughter, or the five (5) other students from Ireland who lost their lives on that fateful night, the importance of this legislative victory should not be underestimated. “This legislation, which requires statewide safety inspection for balconies, is so important for the safety of all people in California – residents and visitors alike. State mandated safety inspection for balconies are necessary to prevent further tragedies like the one that occurred in Berkeley. This legislation will save lives, and I am so grateful that Governor Brown has done the right thing,” said Jackie Donohoe.
The effort to ensure that California law would require mandatory safety inspections for balconies has not been easy. Ms. Donohoe has faced consistent resistance from the large, corporate, moneyed interests of the for-profit construction industry, but nevertheless, she persevered and won. “I am incredibly proud of Jackie Donohoe and how she has exhibited grace, courage, and great fortitude of spirit in the pursuit of legislation that will prevent tragedies like the 2015 Berkeley balcony collapse. Ms. Donohoe’s persistence has made California a much safer place. For all of the effort that Ms. Donohoe has made in order to make this state a safe place to live and visit, we all owe her a debt of gratitude,” said the Donohoe family’s attorney, Eustace de Saint Phalle of Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle and Silver, PC.
Now that Senate Bill 721 has become law, Ms. Donohoe is focused on ensuring that Governor Brown also signs Senate Bill 1465, which would require contractors and builders to report to settlements over 1 million dollars to the Contractors’ State Licensing Board. Therefore, if Governor Brown signs Senate Bill 1465 into law, contractors’ million dollar settlements resulting from dangerous buildings and construction practices will become public information. Senate Bill 1465 has passed through the California Senate, and it is sitting on Governor Brown’s desk – awaiting his signature.
The Berkeley balcony collapse was a tragedy that should not have occurred in California. “As a member of the team here at Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle and Silver, and as an Irish citizen, I am extremely grateful that this law firm is willing to not only pursue litigation, but to also work for positive legislative changes. When events like this occur, we make sure that the responsible parties are held accountable, and then we strive for legislative changes that will prevent the occurrence of events like the one that occurred in Berkeley,” said Brendan Gannon, an associate attorney at Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle and Silver, PC.
With the success of Senate Bill 721, Ms. Donohoe is working towards the passage of Senate Bill 1465. “This fight is not over yet. There is great pressure on Governor Brown from the construction industry because they don’t want the public to know about their big settlements, but that information should be available to the public – so that we can make informed decisions. To be safe, we need transparency. I encourage everyone to let Governor Brown know, in no uncertain terms, that he should sign Senate Bill 1465 into law. The time is now,” said Jackie Donohoe.
As stated by one of the attorneys that represented the Donohoe family in their civil case, “Secret settlements should not be used in the state of California to hide the poor construction work of bad contractors. The practice of doing secret settlements to hide contractor negligence from the public and to prevent the contractors’ licensing board from investigating these situations should not be allowed in the state of California,” said Joseph Lucia, an associate attorney at Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle and Silver, PC.