**Please miss nothing on your deck inspections **
Approximately 10-25 people were attending a party at 6643Del Playa during Deltopia 2013 when the balcony unexpectedly fell and injuredseveral partygoers. Courtesy Robert Clayton
Five UC Santa Barbara students who were injured following abalcony collapse in April 2013 will receive $1.6 million from Wolfe &Associates rental company to compensate hospital bills and resulting injuries.
The incident occurred three years ago during Deltopiafestival weekend on April 3, 2013. Approximately 20 partygoers were clusteredon the balcony of 6643 Del Playa, then the senior house of the now-defunct BetaTheta Pi fraternity.
The 100-square-foot balcony suddenlycollapsed midway through the day, and five people went to thehospital for medical attention. Four immediately sought legal counsel fromattorney Robert Clayton, and another came forward shortly after.
Stephanie Grace filed thelawsuit against Ronald Wolfe & Associates, Inc. and the ElliottFamily Trust on April 24, 2013, and the settlement was officially decided onSept. 21, 2016.
Lucas Fitch, who incurred the largest medical expenses, paid$80,000 for nerve damage in his knee, a fractured foot and fractured leg.
Exposed section of the balcony revealed termite damage andwood rot. Courtesy Robert Clayton
Jared Nicol paid $32,000 for a torn ACL, Stephanie Gracepaid $25,000 for a fractured pelvis after being crushed by the fallen balcony,Ava Hosseini paid $18,000 for a fractured leg and Anya Merkle paid $6,000 for ashoulder tear.
The settlement will be divided between the five victimsbased on the range of their expenses, but “each one of them has activities ofdaily living that they could do before where they are now limited,” Claytonsaid.
Beta Theta Pi was not in contact with the Clayton or defenseattorney Robert Freedman following the incident, and Clayton said thefraternity “immediately went into radio silence” to distance themselves fromthe accident.
“The evidence is pretty clear that it wasn’t their fault,”Clayton said.
Two of three engineers hired by the defense, however,believed the accident was a combination of how the balcony was constructed andthe amount of people occupying the space.
The incident took place at the now-defunct Beta Theta Pifraternity’s senior house. Courtesy Robert Clayton
“I think the fraternity was concerned and wanted to keeptheir heads low and stay out of it as best as they could,” Freedman said.
Varying reports described 10-25 people on the deck at thetime of the collapse. Although partygoers were consistently gathered on thesmall balcony, Clayton said it was not “packed,” and there was room to movefreely.
The cause of the deck failure was disputed, and plaintiffsbelieved Wolfe & Associates neglected wood rot and a serious termiteinfestations in the 25-year-old building, ultimately causing the balcony tofall.
“Every case is different,” Clayton said. “As the case wenton, they knew they had problems.”
“Thankfully, nobody died in the collapse; that easily couldhave happened.” — Robert Clayton
A pest report from Western Exterminator Company on February 13,2012, noted six areas affected by drywood termites throughout the deck, ceilingand balcony area and two instances of dry rot and fungus.
The report recommended that Wolfe & Associates fumigatethe building and remodel the affected areas, but according to Clayton, themanagement company did not address the report or communicate the problems toits tenants.
Additionally, Clayton said a neighbor had advised Wolfe& Associates three to four years prior to the incident, telling the companyto remodel after he went next door and “put a finger right through the wood.”
“There were a lot of reports regarding termites. Some wereremediated, some were reviewed,” said Freedman, who believed termites were notthe singular cause for the balcony collapse.
The balcony was boarded up and later replaced with asturdier deck space. Courtesy Robert Clayton
“At trial, we were prepared to present what we believed wasthe cause, which was the activity of the kids partying on the deck,” he said.“There were also prospective connections with the deck, where it was connectedto the wall.”
The deck, boarded up after the incident, has since beenreplaced with a sturdier deck space.
Clayton said two others settled their cases separatelythrough Wolfe & Associates insurance company. He did not know the extent oftheir injuries, but said the settlement likely amounted to less than $50,000.
“For those type of injuries, this was a good settlement,”Clayton said. “Thankfully, nobody died in the collapse; that easily could havehappened.”
Five students at UC Berkeley died after a balcony collapsein Berkeley, Calif. on June 26, 2015, and seven more were injured. Inresponse, Gov. Jerry Brown passed a bill in September that will require contractorsto report past felonies and crimes involving construction defects to theContractors State License Board, according tothe Daily Californian.
Clayton added that “several others” who were injured in theDeltopia incident may not have made claims, but most victims suffered only fromnon-critical, orthopedic injuries.
“The judge was very fair,” Freedman said. “When you takeinto account their physical damage … and their medical bills, the settlementwas reasonable.”