A young woman who was seriously injured when a crowded balcony collapsed on her during the Deltopia street party in Isla Vista last month has filed a lawsuit against the property’s manager and owner alleging negligence and liability.
The suit was filed last week in Santa Barbara County Superior Court on behalf of Stephanie Grace, a 21-year-old UCSB senior from Los Angeles, who suffered a fractured pelvis when the balcony supporting at least 20 people fell on her and dozens of other people below.
At least three other people were seriously injured, according to officials.
The suit states that Ronald Wolfe and Associates, the property manager, and the Elliott Family Trust, which owns the apartment building, were negligent in caring for the 6643 Del Playa Drive property.
The suit alleges that the house had long-standing problems with termites and wood rot in the balcony, but the defendants did nothing to fix the problem.
“It is clear the owners knew there was a problem,” said Robert Clayton, Grace’s attorney with Los Angeles-based firm Taylor and Ring, LLP. “It wasn’t a question of if, but when.”
The collapse occurred during the April 6 Deltopia, when authorities estimated as many as 18,000 people took to the streets of Isla Vista for the massive, unpermitted street party.
Grace had just walked out onto the outdoor patio of the Del Playa house, which is associated with the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, when a small amount of rubble fell from above, just before the entire balcony collapsed, pinning her underneath, according to the suit.
Clayton said Grace described “screaming and chaos,” and she was taken to the hospital with a fractured pelvis.
Doctors are monitoring her to make sure she heals correctly, and Clayton stopped short of naming an exact dollar amount that she seeking with the lawsuit. But he said she is looking for “fair and reasonable compensation for her injuries.”
Grace already has more than $25,000 in medical bills, and doesn’t have health insurance, Clayton said.
“She’s still in a lot of pain and using crutches,” her attorney said. “At the end of the day, we just want her to be taken care of.”
Grace is a lifeguard at the university, and hasn’t been able to return to work since the incident.
Clayton said the owner of the property did have insurance, and said that many of the victims of the collapse may have already signed agreements with the insurance company in exchange for a small amount of cash.
One of the students went to the hospital with a broken femur, another with a torn ACL.
“There are many students who sustained significant injuries who haven’t come forward yet,” he said. “There are a bunch of kids out there that were seriously injured … in many cases not knowing how serious those injuries would be.”