Court rules building owners liable for earthquake deaths
June 23, 2010
A California appellate court upheld a San Luis Obispo County jury decision to award the families of two women who were killed when a Paso Robles building collapsed on them almost $2 million in damages. [Judgment]
The 111-year-old Acorn Building in Paso Robles was not reinforced to handle an earthquake.
Both Jennifer Lynn Myrick and Marilyn Frost-Zafuto worked in a clothing store in the building. In December 2003, during the San Simeon earthquake, a portion of the building collapsed, crushing them.
On appeal, the defendant, building owner Mary Mastagni, argued she had no duty to retrofit the building until 2018, the deadline established by a city ordinance.
The Ventura-based Second District California Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision.
“Certainly, the city considered the interests of building owners in setting the deadline for compliance,” said Justice Arthur Gilbert in the appellate court’s decision. “But the overriding policy behind the seismic retrofit ordinance, taken as a whole, is not the promotion of the interests of building owners. Instead, the overriding policy is public safety.”