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Berkeley balcony tragedy: Trillion-dollar US firm BlackRock Inc vows to 'vigorously' fight victims' families in court

Company claims civil suits for damages are 'without merit'

By Shane Phelan

Published 02/04/2016

The scene of the tragedy in which six young people died
The scene of the tragedy in which six young people died

The owners of the building at the centre of the fatal Berkeley balcony collapse plan to "vigorously" fight the multi-million dollar lawsuits being taken by survivors and relatives of the dead.

BlackRock Inc claimed the civil suits were "without merit", according to documents seen by the Irish Independent.

The Irish students killed in the Berkeley balcony collapse: Eoghan Culligan, Nick Schuster, Lorcán Miller, Eimear Walsh and Olivia Burke, all 21 years old and friends from south Dublin. The sixth fatality is Irish-American Ashley Donohoe (22), from California.
The Irish students killed in the Berkeley balcony collapse: Eoghan Culligan, Nick Schuster, Lorcán Miller, Eimear Walsh and Olivia Burke, all 21 years old and friends from south Dublin. The sixth fatality is Irish-American Ashley Donohoe (22), from California.

The New York corporation announced its intention to contest the case in a filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

It is the first defendant in the case to publicly state its intention to fight allegations of negligence.

The move comes as a further blow to the families of the five Irish students and one Irish-American student who died and seven others who suffered serious injuries as a result of the tragedy last June.

Earlier this week, prosecutors announced there would be no criminal charges following a nine-month investigation.

Now the families and survivors will be up against the financial might of a corporation considered to be the world's largest asset management firm.

In a legal filing to a court in California, lawyers representing most of the families also warned that more defendants could end up contesting the case.

"It is anticipated that some defendants will file challenges to the pleadings or portions thereof," said lawyers Michael Kelly and Matthew Davis.

The remaining defendants could announce their intentions at a hearing that is scheduled for the Alameda County Superior Court in California later this month.

Two students comfort each other at the scene of the Berkeley balcony collapse
Two students comfort each other at the scene of the Berkeley balcony collapse
Mourners cry as the caskets of cousins Olivia Burke, 21, and Ashley Donohoe, 22, are placed in hearses following services at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Cotati, Calif. on Saturday, June 20, 2015. Olivia, an Irish national and Ashley, an American, died with others while celebrating a birthday when a balcony collapsed at a Berkeley, Calif. apartment complex on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Michael Short)
The coffin of Olivia Burke arrives at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock, Dublin, for her funeral service. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 24, 2015. She died when a balcony collapsed in the college town of Berkeley, California. See PA story FUNERAL Balcony. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
The flag of St Mary's College in Rathmines is carried during the funeral of Niccolai Schuster at The Church of the Three Patrons in Rathgar, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 24, 2015. He died when a balcony collapsed in the college town of Berkeley, California. See PA story FUNERAL Balcony. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
GAA commentator Micheal O Muircheartaigh attends the funeral of Niccolai Schuster at The Church of the Three Patrons in Rathgar, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 24, 2015. He died when a balcony collapsed in the college town of Berkeley, California. See PA story FUNERAL Balcony. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
The coffin of Olivia Burke arrives at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock, Dublin, for her funeral service. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 24, 2015. She died when a balcony collapsed in the college town of Berkeley, California. See PA story FUNERAL Balcony. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
The coffin of Olivia Burke arrives at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock, Dublin, for her funeral service. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 24, 2015. She died when a balcony collapsed in the college town of Berkeley, California. See PA story FUNERAL Balcony. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
The coffin of Olivia Burke arrives at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock, Dublin, for her funeral service. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 24, 2015. She died when a balcony collapsed in the college town of Berkeley, California. See PA story FUNERAL Balcony. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Singer Hozier at the church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock, Dublin, where he was due to perform at the funeral service of Olivia Burke. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 24, 2015. She died when a balcony collapsed in the college town of Berkeley, California. See PA story FUNERAL Balcony. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
The coffin of Eoghan Culligan is carried during his funeral at the Church of the Annunciation, Rathfarnham in Dublin, after he died when a balcony collapsed in the college town of Berkeley, California. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 23, 2015. See PA story FUNERAL Balcony. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Mourners leave after the funeral of Eimear Walsh at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 23, 2015. Eimar died when a balcony collapsed in the college town of Berkeley, California. See PA story FUNERAL Balcony. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
The coffin of Eimear Walsh leaves Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock, Dublin, after his funeral service. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 23, 2015. Eimar died when a balcony collapsed in the college town of Berkeley, California. See PA story FUNERAL Balcony. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
The coffin of Eimear Walsh leaves Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock, Dublin, after his funeral service. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 23, 2015. Eimar died when a balcony collapsed in the college town of Berkeley, California. See PA story FUNERAL Balcony. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
The coffin of Eimear Walsh leaves Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock, Dublin, after her funeral service. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 23, 2015. Eimar died when a balcony collapsed in the college town of Berkeley, California. See PA story FUNERAL Balcony. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
The coffin of Eimear Walsh leaves Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock, Dublin, after her funeral service. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 23, 2015. Eimar died when a balcony collapsed in the college town of Berkeley, California. See PA story FUNERAL Balcony. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
The coffin of Eimear Walsh arrives at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock, Dublin, for her funeral after she died when a balcony collapsed in the college town of Berkeley, California. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 23, 2015. See PA story FUNERAL Balcony. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Mourners gather at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock, Dublin, for the funeral of Eimear Walsh who died when a balcony collapsed in the college town of Berkeley, California. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 23, 2015. See PA story FUNERAL Balcony. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Mourners gather at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock, Dublin, for the funeral of Eimear Walsh who died when a balcony collapsed in the college town of Berkeley, California. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 23, 2015. See PA story FUNERAL Balcony. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
The coffin of Eimear Walsh arrives at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock, Dublin, for his funeral after he died when a balcony collapsed in the college town of Berkeley, California. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 23, 2015. See PA story FUNERAL Balcony. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
The coffin of Eoghan Culligan is carried during his funeral at the Church of the Annunciation, Rathfarnham in Dublin, after he died when a balcony collapsed in the college town of Berkeley, California. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 23, 2015. See PA story FUNERAL Balcony. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
The coffin of Eoghan Culligan is carried during his funeral at the Church of the Annunciation, Rathfarnham in Dublin, after he died when a balcony collapsed in the college town of Berkeley, California. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 23, 2015. See PA story FUNERAL Balcony. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Paul Burke places items on top of his daughter's casket during a service for Olivia Burke, 21, and Ashley Donohoe, 22, at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Cotati, Calif., on Saturday, June 20, 2015. The two woman were among the several people killed on Tuesday when a balcony snapped off the fifth floor of a Berkeley apartment building during a birthday party. (AP Photo/Michael Short)
The Burke family from right, father Paul, mother Paula and brother Gavin look on during a service for Olivia Burke, 21, and Ashley Donohoe, 22, at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Cotati, Calif., on Saturday, June 20, 2015. The two woman were among the several people killed on Tuesday when a balcony snapped off the fifth floor of a Berkeley apartment building during a birthday party. (AP Photo/Michael Short)
Monsignor Dan Whelton gives his condolences to the Burke family from right, father Paul and mother Paula Burke and brother Gavin Burke during funeral services for Olivia Burke, 21, and Ashley Donohoe, 22, at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Cotati, Calif., on Saturday, June 20, 2015. The two woman were among the several people killed on Tuesday when a balcony snapped off the fifth floor of a Berkeley apartment building during a birthday party. (AP Photo/Michael Short)
Ashley Donohoe looks at her sister's casket during a service for Olivia Burke, 21, and Ashley Donohoe, 22, at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Cotati, Calif., on Saturday, June 20, 2015. The two woman were among the several people killed on Tuesday when a balcony snapped off the fifth floor of a Berkeley apartment building during a birthday party. (AP Photo/Michael Short)
Friends and family gather for a service for Olivia Burke, 21, and Ashley Donohoe, 22, at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Cotati, Calif., Saturday, June 20, 2015. The two woman were among the several people killed on Tuesday when a balcony snapped off the fifth floor of a Berkeley apartment building during a birthday party. (AP Photo/Michael Short)
Olivia Burke's brother Gavin Burke holds consoles his mother Paula Burke as Paul burke looks on during a service for Olivia and Ashley Donohoe, 22, at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Cotati, Calif., Saturday, June 20, 2015. The two woman were among the several people killed on Tuesday when a balcony snapped off the fifth floor of a Berkeley apartment building during a birthday party. (AP Photo/Michael Short)
Olivia Donohoe's brother Gavin Burke, left, stands with his parents Paul Burke and Paula Burke as they watch a funeral worker tend to the casket of Ashley Donohoe, following services for Donohoe, 22, and Olivia Burke, 21, and Ashley Donohoe, 22, at St. Josephs Catholic Church in Cotati, Calif., on Saturday, June 20, 2015. The two woman were among the several people killed on Tuesday when a balcony snapped off the fifth floor of a Berkeley apartment building during a birthday party. (AP Photo/Michael Short)
Pallbearers, including Ashley Donohoe's father George Donohoe, right, carry her casket to a waiting hearse following services for Olivia Burke, 21, and Ashley Donohoe, 22, at St. Josephs Catholic Church in Cotati, Calif., on Saturday, June 20, 2015. The two woman were among the several people killed on Tuesday when a balcony snapped off the fifth floor of a Berkeley apartment building during a birthday party. (AP Photo/Michael Short)
Pallbearers, including Olivia Burke's brother Gavin Burke, left, wheel out her casket following services for Olivia Burke, 21, and Ashley Donohoe, 22, at St. Josephs Catholic Church in Cotati, Calif., on Saturday, June 20, 2015. The two woman were among the several people killed on Tuesday when a balcony snapped off the fifth floor of a Berkeley apartment building during a birthday party. (AP Photo/Michael Short)
From left, parents George and Jackie Donohoe with their daughter Amanda Donohoe pray during services for Ashley Donohoe, 22, and Olivia Burke, 21 at St. Josephs Catholic Church in Cotati, Calif., on Saturday, June 20, 2015. The two woman were among the several people killed on Tuesday when a balcony snapped off the fifth floor of a Berkeley apartment building during a birthday party. (AP Photo/Michael Short)
Mourners pray during services for Olivia Burke, 21, and Ashley Donohoe, 22, at St. Josephs Catholic Church in Cotati, Calif., on Saturday, June 20, 2015. The two woman were among the several people killed on Tuesday when a balcony snapped off the fifth floor of a Berkeley apartment building during a birthday party. (AP Photo/Michael Short)
Friends and family gather for a service for Olivia Burke, 21, and Ashley Donohoe, 22, at St. Josephs Catholic Church in Cotati, Calif., on Saturday, June 20, 2015. The two woman were among the several people killed on Tuesday when a balcony snapped off the fifth floor of a Berkeley apartment building during a birthday party. (AP Photo/Michael Short)
Caskets of Olivia Burke, 21, and Ashley Donohoe, 22, are set in front of the altar before a service at St. Josephs Catholic Church in Cotati, Calif., on Saturday, June 20, 2015. The two woman were among the several people killed on Tuesday when a balcony snapped off the fifth floor of a Berkeley apartment building during a birthday party. (AP Photo/Michael Short)
Funeral directors transport the body of an Irish student who died Tuesday when a Berkeley apartment balcony collapsed, Friday, June 19, 2015 in Oakland Calif. Caskets bearing four of the six victims arrived at St. Columba Catholic Church for a vigil Friday afternoon. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
A funeral director transports the body of an Irish student who died Tuesday when a Berkeley apartment balcony collapsed, Friday, June 19, 2015, in Oakland Calif. Caskets bearing four of the six victims arrived at St. Columba Catholic Church for a vigil Friday afternoon. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Mourners embrace following an open casket vigil for four Irish students who died Tuesday when a Berkeley apartment balcony collapsed on Friday, June 19, 2015, in Oakland Calif. The fourth floor balcony at the Library Gardens apartment complex detached early Tuesday morning killing six and injuring seven during a 21st birthday party. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Jimmy Deenihan, Ireland's Minister of State for the Diaspora, leaves an open casket vigil for four Irish students who died Tuesday when a Berkeley apartment balcony collapsed, Friday, June 19, 2015, in Oakland Calif. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Pallbearers attend to the caskets of Olivia Burke, 21, and Ashley Donohoe, 22, before a service at St. Josephs Catholic Church in Cotati, Calif., on Saturday, June 20, 2015. The two woman were among the several people killed on Tuesday when a balcony snapped off the fifth floor of a Berkeley apartment building during a birthday party. (AP Photo/Michael Short)
Pallbearers attend to the caskets of Olivia Burke, 21, and Ashley Donohoe, 22, before a service at St. Josephs Catholic Church in Cotati, Calif., on Saturday, June 20, 2015. The two woman were among the several people killed on Tuesday when a balcony snapped off the fifth floor of a Berkeley apartment building during a birthday party. (AP Photo/Michael Short)
Jackie Donohoe places items on top of her daughter's casket during a service for Olivia Burke, 21, and Ashley Donohoe, 22, at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Cotati, Calif., Saturday, June 20, 2015. The two woman were among the several people killed on Tuesday when a balcony snapped off the fifth floor of a Berkeley apartment building during a birthday party. (AP Photo/Michael Short)
Gavin Burke, second from right, brother of Olivia Burke holds his head in his hands as his fatter Paul Burke looks down during services for Olivia Burke, 21, and Ashley Donohoe, 22, at St. Josephs Catholic Church in Cotati, Calif., on Saturday, June 20, 2015. The two woman were among the several people killed on Tuesday when a balcony snapped off the fifth floor of a Berkeley apartment building during a birthday party. (AP Photo/Michael Short)
Funeral directors transport the body of an Irish student who died Tuesday when a Berkeley apartment balcony collapsed, Friday, June 19, 2015, in Oakland Calif. Caskets bearing four of the six victims arrived at St. Columba Catholic Church for a vigil Friday afternoon. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
A man holds his head during a memorial service for six Irish students at the Cathedral of Christ the Light Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. The six Irish students died when a balcony collapsed during a party in Berkeley. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)
Mourners embrace following an open casket vigil for four Irish students who died Tuesday when a Berkeley apartment balcony collapsed, Friday, June 19, 2015, in Oakland Calif. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Funeral directors transport the body of an Irish student who died Tuesday when a Berkeley apartment balcony collapsed on Friday, June 19, 2015, in Oakland Calif. Caskets bearing four of the six victims arrived at St. Columba Catholic Church for a vigil Friday afternoon. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Mourners arrive at a vigil for four Irish students who died when a Berkeley apartment balcony collapsed on Friday, June 19, 2015, in Oakland Calif. The balcony at Berkeley's Library Gardens apartment complex detached early Tuesday morning killing six during a birthday party. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Members of the public queue to sign a book of condolence at Mansion House in Dublin for those killed in the Berkeley balcony collapse. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 18, 2015. See PA story IRISH Balcony. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
A member of the public arrives to sign a book of condolence at the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin's city centre for those killed in the Berkeley balcony collapse. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 20, 2015. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Members of the public sign a book of condolence at the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin's city centre for those killed in the Berkeley balcony collapse. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 20, 2015. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Members of the public sign a book of condolence at the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin's city centre for those killed in the Berkeley balcony collapse. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 20, 2015. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Members of the public sign a book of condolence at the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin's city centre for those killed in the Berkeley balcony collapse. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 20, 2015. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Members of the public sign a book of condolence at the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin's city centre for those killed in the Berkeley balcony collapse. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 20, 2015. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Members of the public sign a book of condolence at the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin's city centre for those killed in the Berkeley balcony collapse. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 20, 2015. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Tributes left in a book of condolence in the chapel at St Mary's College in Rathmines, Dublin, where UCD students Niccolai Schuster and Eoghan Culligan studied before they were killed in a balcony collapse in the US. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 18, 2015. The victims - five from Ireland and one from California - plunged to their deaths while celebrating a 21st birthday party in Berkeley. See PA story IRISH Balcony. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
A flag flies at half mast at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour church in Foxrock, Dublin, to honour the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 18, 2015. The victims - five from Ireland and one from California - plunged to their deaths while celebrating a 21st birthday party in the US city. See PA story IRISH Balcony. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Books of condolence for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse are opened at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour church in Foxrock, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 18, 2015. The victims - five from Ireland and one from California - plunged to their deaths while celebrating a 21st birthday party in the US city. See PA story IRISH Balcony. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Candles are lit in memory of the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour church in Foxrock, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 18, 2015. The victims - five from Ireland and one from California - plunged to their deaths while celebrating a 21st birthday party in the US city. See PA story IRISH Balcony. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Members of the public sign a book of condolence at Mansion House in Dublin for those killed in the Berkeley balcony collapse. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 18, 2015. See PA story IRISH Balcony. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Members of the public sign a book of condolence at Mansion House in Dublin for those killed in the Berkeley balcony collapse. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 18, 2015. See PA story IRISH Balcony. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
A list of the names of the victims beside a book of condolence at Mansion House in Dublin opened in memory of those killed in the Berkeley balcony collapse. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 18, 2015. See PA story IRISH Balcony. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Messages written by President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina in a book of condolence opened at Mansion House in Dublin for those killed in the Berkeley balcony collapse. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 18, 2015. See PA story IRISH Balcony. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Dublin Lord Mayor Christy Burke (right) invites members of the public to sign a book of condolence at Mansion House in Dublin for those killed in the Berkeley balcony collapse. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 18, 2015. See PA story IRISH Balcony. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina sign a book of condolence at Mansion House in Dublin for those killed in the Berkeley balcony collapse. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 18, 2015. See PA story IRISH Balcony. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
President Michael D Higgins signs a book of condolence at Mansion House in Dublin for those killed in the Berkeley balcony collapse. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 18, 2015. See PA story IRISH Balcony. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Lord Mayor Christy Burke (left) watches as President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina sign a book of condolence at Mansion House in Dublin for those killed in the Berkeley balcony collapse. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 18, 2015. See PA story IRISH Balcony. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Mourners attend the funeral of Eoghan Culligan at the Church of the Annunciation, Rathfarnham in Dublin, after he died when a balcony collapsed in the college town of Berkeley, California. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 23, 2015. See PA story FUNERAL Balcony. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
People react during a memorial for those who lost their lives after a balcony gave way in Berkeley, California on June 17, 2015. AFP/Getty Images
People gather for a mass at UCD this afternoon for the young Irish students who lost thir lives in the Berkeley tragedy. Pic:Mark Condren 19.6.2015
People gather for a mass at UCD this afternoon for the young Irish students who lost thir lives in the Berkeley tragedy. Pic:Mark Condren 19.6.2015
People gather for a mass at UCD this afternoon for the young Irish students who lost thir lives in the Berkeley tragedy. Pic:Mark Condren 19.6.2015
People gather for a mass at UCD this afternoon for the young Irish students who lost thir lives in the Berkeley tragedy. Pic:Mark Condren 19.6.2015
President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina whoi attended a mass at UCD this afternoon for the young Irish students who lost their lives in the Berkeley tragedy. Pic:Mark Condren 19.6.2015
People gather for a mass at UCD this afternoon for the young Irish students who lost thir lives in the Berkeley tragedy. Pic:Mark Condren 19.6.2015
People gather for a mass at UCD this afternoon for the young Irish students who lost thir lives in the Berkeley tragedy. Pic:Mark Condren 19.6.2015
Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness signing a book of condolence at the Mansion House following the deaths of the young Irish students in the Berkeley tragedy. Pic:Mark Condren 19.6.2015
People stand in silence at a memorial for those who lost their lives after a balcony gave way in Berkeley, California on June 17, 2015. AFP/Getty Images
Members of the public queue to sign a book of condolence at Mansion House in Dublin for those killed in the Berkeley balcony collapse. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
Tributes left in a book of condolence in the chapel at St Mary's College in Rathmines, Dublin, where UCD students Niccolai Schuster and Eoghan Culligan studied before they were killed in a balcony collapse in the US. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
A woman holds a candle during a candlelight vigil at the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park to mourn the loss of six students who died in an early Tuesday morning balcony collapse on June 17, 2015 in Berkeley, California. Hundreds of people attended a candlelight vigil for six students who were killed, five of which were in the United States on J1 work visas from Ireland, when a balcony they were standing on collapsed during a birthday party in their Berkeley, California apartment. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A flag flies at half mast at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour church in Foxrock, Dublin, to honour the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse Photo: Niall Carson/PA
Books of condolence for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse are opened at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour church in Foxrock, Dublin. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
Candles are lit in memory of the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour church in Foxrock, Dublin. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
Members of the public sign a book of condolence at Mansion House in Dublin for those killed in the Berkeley balcony collapse. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina sign a book of condolence at Mansion House in Dublin for those killed in the Berkeley balcony collapse. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
The Irish students killed in the Berkeley balcony collapse: Eoghan Culligan, Nick Schuster, Lorcán Miller, Eimear Walsh and Olivia Burke, all 21 years old and friends from south Dublin. The sixth fatality is Irish-American Ashley Donohoe (22), from California.
People react during a memorial for those who lost their lives after a balcony gave way in Berkeley, California on June 17, 2015. Dry rot and overcrowding could be responsible for the collapse of the balcony that sent six young Irish nationals plummeting to their deaths. AFP PHOTO / JOSH EDELSONJosh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images
People react during a memorial for those who lost their lives after a balcony gave way in Berkeley, California on June 17, 2015. Dry rot and overcrowding could be responsible for the collapse of the balcony that sent six young Irish nationals plummeting to their deaths. AFP PHOTO / JOSH EDELSONJosh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images
A crowd of people stand in silence at a memorial for those who lost their lives after a balcony gave way in Berkeley, California on June 17, 2015. Dry rot and overcrowding could be responsible for the collapse of a balcony at a California apartment building, sending five Irish citizens and an Irish-American woman plummeting to their deaths, media reports said on June 17. At least seven other people were injured in the accident in Berkeley, which took place in the early hours of June 16 during a 21st birthday party. AFP PHOTO / JOSH EDELSONJosh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images
People place candles at a memorial for those who lost their lives after a balcony gave way in Berkeley, California on June 17, 2015. Dry rot and overcrowding could be responsible for the collapse of a balcony at a California apartment building, sending five Irish citizens and an Irish-American woman plummeting to their deaths, media reports said on June 17. At least seven other people were injured in the accident in Berkeley, which took place in the early hours of June 16 during a 21st birthday party. AFP PHOTO / JOSH EDELSONJosh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images
People place candles and signs at a memorial for those who lost their lives after a balcony gave way in Berkeley, California on June 17, 2015. Dry rot and overcrowding could be responsible for the collapse of a balcony at a California apartment building, sending five Irish citizens and an Irish-American woman plummeting to their deaths, media reports said on June 17. At least seven other people were injured in the accident in Berkeley, which took place in the early hours of June 16 during a 21st birthday party. AFP PHOTO / JOSH EDELSONJosh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images
Young friends attend a memorial for those who lost their lives after a balcony gave way in Berkeley, California on June 17, 2015.
People embrace at a memorial for those who lost their lives after a balcony gave way in Berkeley, California on June 17, 2015. Dry rot and overcrowding could be responsible for the collapse of a balcony at a California apartment building, sending five Irish citizens and an Irish-American woman plummeting to their deaths, media reports said on June 17. At least seven other people were injured in the accident in Berkeley, which took place in the early hours of June 16 during a 21st birthday party. AFP PHOTO / JOSH EDELSONJosh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images
BERKELEY, CA - JUNE 17: A man cries during a candlelight vigil at the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park to mourn the loss of six students who died in an early Tuesday morning balcony collapse on June 17, 2015 in Berkeley, California. Hundreds of people attended a candlelight vigil for six students who were killed, five of which were in the United States on J1 work visas from Ireland, when a balcony they were standing on collapsed during a birthday party in their Berkeley, California apartment. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
BERKELEY, CA - JUNE 17: A woman looks at a makeshift memorial outside of an apartment where six students died in an early Tuesday morning balcony collapse on June 17, 2015 in Berkeley, California. Hundreds of people attended a candlelight vigil for six students who were killed, five of which were in the United States on J1 work visas from Ireland, when a balcony they were standing on collapsed during a birthday party in their Berkeley, California apartment. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
BERKELEY, CA - JUNE 17: A man looks at a makeshift memorial outside of an apartment where six students died in an early Tuesday morning balcony collapse on June 17, 2015 in Berkeley, California. Hundreds of people attended a candlelight vigil for six students who were killed, five of which were in the United States on J1 work visas from Ireland, when a balcony they were standing on collapsed during a birthday party in their Berkeley, California apartment. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
BERKELEY, CA - JUNE 17: People gather at the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park to mourn the loss of six students who died in an early Tuesday morning balcony collapse on June 17, 2015 in Berkeley, California. Hundreds of people attended a candlelight vigil for six students who were killed, five of which were in the United States on J1 work visas from Ireland, when a balcony they were standing on collapsed during a birthday party in their Berkeley, California apartment. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
BERKELEY, CA - JUNE 17: People hold candles as they gather at the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park to mourn the loss of six students who died in an early Tuesday morning balcony collapse on June 17, 2015 in Berkeley, California. Hundreds of people attended a candlelight vigil for six students who were killed, five of which were in the United States on J1 work visas from Ireland, when a balcony they were standing on collapsed during a birthday party in their Berkeley, California apartment. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Emotional tributes have been paid to the tragic students (AP)
Eoghan Culligan and his girlfriend Sarah McCarthy
Neil Sands of the Irish Network Bay Area places a flag of Ireland over wreaths at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015 (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
A woman leaves flowers at a makeshift memorial for victims of a balcony that collapsed in Berkeley (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Newspapers in the student centre in University College Dublin where three of the six students studied before they were killed in a balcony collapse in the US. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
The remaining wood from the Library Gardens apartment building balcony that collapsed is shown in Berkeley (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
A worker measures near the remaining wood from an apartment building balcony that collapsed in Berkeley (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Irish flag, flowers and a sign are shown at a shrine left for victims of the Library Gardens apartment building balcony collapse Wednesday, June 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
A man who did not give his name looks at photographs, cards and flowers from a shrine for victims from the Library Gardens apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
A crew works on the balcony which collapsed, killing six people
Police at the scene of a balcony collapse at an apartment building near UC Berkeley on June 16, 2015 in Berkeley (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A group stands in the lobby at Highland Hospital, where some victims from a balcony that collapsed were taken (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
People gather at the scene of a balcony collapse in Berkeley (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Flowers and a cigarette box form a makeshift shrine near the area where a fourth floor balcony collapsed in Berkeley (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Police examine the scene of a balcony collapse in Berkeley, Calif. on Tuesday, June 16, 2015 (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

BlackRock Inc and six related companies were among 35 defendants named in lawsuits filed last November.

Claims against three of the defendants were subsequently withdrawn.

The remaining 32 defendants include companies who owned, built and managed the Library Gardens building in Berkeley, California, where the balcony of apartment 405 collapsed.

Unsafe

Thirteen lawsuits filed by the survivors and relatives of the victims last November claimed the defendants "cut corners" and did not heed numerous warnings indicating the balcony was unsafe.

In relation to the BlackRock companies, it was claimed they had notice that the balcony had not been constructed in accordance with accepted safety practices.

It was claimed these companies knew the balcony would be subject to accelerated wood rot and be dangerous and unsafe, but failed to fix the problems as it would be too costly, embarrassing and inconvenient.

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The lawsuits contain claims the BlackRock companies were made aware that mushrooms were growing on the balcony.

It is argued in the lawsuits that this was "an unambiguous red flag warning that the wooden joists were rotting and that the balcony was at risk of collapse".

It was claimed the BlackRock companies "purposely and wilfully endangered the health and safety of tenants" by not intervening to ensure the balconies were fixed or placed off limits.

However, in an annual report filed with the SEC, BlackRock Inc said it believed "the claims in the lawsuits are without merit" and said the corporation "intends to vigorously defend the actions".

Irish J1 students Eoghan Culligan, Lorcan Miller, Nick Schuster, Eimear Walsh, Olivia Burke and Olivia's Irish- American cousin Ashley Donohoe died after falling to the ground when the fourth-floor balcony gave way.

Seven other Irish students - Aoife Beary, Clodagh Cogley, Sean Fahey, Conor Flynn, Jack Halpin, Niall Murray and Hannah Waters, were seriously injured.

The district attorney of Alameda County in California, Nancy O'Malley, announced on Tuesday she would not be pursuing criminal charges.

She said she did not believe it could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that any one company or individual had committed manslaughter through being negligent.

However, there is a lower burden of proof for the civil actions, which will be able to call upon much of the investigative work carried out by the district attorney's office.

The civil cases are being streamlined so they will all be heard together.

All of the legal actions are similarly worded, with each having the stated aim of holding accountable those that bear responsibility so that a similar tragedy never occurs.

The suits describe horrific injuries suffered by the survivors and the "shock and terror" they experienced.

Given the number of plaintiffs and defendants involved, it is likely to be several months before the cases get beyond the preliminary hearing stage.

Firm operates in 30 countries

BlackRock Inc is considered the largest asset management firm in the world and is best known in Ireland for conducting bank stress tests.

The US corporation has $4.6 trillion (€4.05 trillion) in assets under its control.

It is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and has 12,000 employees in 30 countries.

The corporation also specialises in risk management and was called upon by US regulators to value assets in Bear Stearns and AIG following the financial meltdown in 2008.

In Ireland, it was recruited by the Government to conduct stress tests on the banks in 2011, as required under the troika bailout deal.

The corporation's Irish arm, BlackRock Asset Management Ireland Ltd, is based in Dublin's IFSC.

That company's most recent set of accounts, for 2014, stated that the Irish-based entity was managing Stg£261bn (€326bn) in assets.

Its post-tax profits for that year were Stg£40.9m (€51.1m).

According to the Central Bank register, the company has operated 12 separate investment funds in Ireland since 1995.

The Irish operation currently manages several funds and makes its money by charging management and performance fees.

Irish Independent

Irish Independent

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