Following an ongoing San Jose Code Enforcement investigation, a second fall, and a civil lawsuit from the law firm of Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, Spieker Companies finally agrees to change the window design at its Hamilton Avenue Complex in San Jose.
Attorney Timothy McMahon
Online PR News – 20-September-2012 –The law firm of Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard is again urging Spieker Companies Inc., a prominent Palo Alto-based real estate holding company owned by Richard Tod Spieker, to protect the safety of its apartment residents following two accidental falls that have led to the catastrophic brain injury of one person and more recent injuries to a young child.
In a 2011 lawsuit (Santa Clara County Superior Court case 111-CV-195608) filed by attorney Timothy McMahon, law firm of Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, it is alleged that Spieker Companies cut corners by installing windows at its Hamilton Avenue, San Jose, California apartments that did not meet California and Uniform Building Code standards thus putting residents, their young children and guests in danger of death or serious injury. The complaint states that on April 24th of 2010, Suzanne Pacheco was visiting friends at a third floor apartment when she reached down to grab something from her purse, lost her balance, and fell three stories through the open window suffering severe brain damage.
“Despite the pending lawsuit against Spieker Companies, and the investigation conducted by San Jose’s Code Enforcement team revealing code violations, the company apparently refused to address these potential safety concerns at the dozens of other complexes they own. It was only after the second fall did the company change the window design for the Mountain View complex.”
Spieker Companies purchased the Hamilton Apartments in 2005 and replaced the living room windows in each unit. They installed non-tempered full vertical sliding window panes just 12 inches from the floor despite the fact that the original aluminum windows that were replaced had a fixed bottom designed to prevent falls because of the extremely low sill height. There were no protective security bars across the replacement window openings or any other safety device that would help prevent injury even though California building codes require a safety bar if non tempered glass is used.
In recent deposition testimony, Spieker’s own resident manager of the Hamilton Ave. Complex admitted that she would not allow her grandchildren to play next to the windows in her apartment due to her concern that they might fall. A maintenance supervisor testified that he advised both the Resident Manager and Regional Manager of the significant danger posed to tenants and their guests, but was told by management to “mind his own business” and “not make waves” even though the Resident Manager agreed that the windows were dangerous “sliding glass doors”. A report he authored following the incident, that was critical of the company for failing to take action to protect residents, was allegedly destroyed by his supervisor because she said it put the company in a bad light. Ironically, he was fired just five months later despite receiving various company awards including Spieker Companies “Employee of the Year”.
Believing that Spieker would refuse to implement reasonable safeguards unless further action was taken, and in order to protect the tenants and guests still at risk at the Hamilton Ave complex, Mr. McMahon wrote to the company in May 2012 urging that Spieker voluntarily install safety devices required by code and to advise its tenants of the danger posed by the unprotected windows at the complex. When Spieker Companies ignored the request and refused to take any action to protect its tenants from injury, Mr. McMahon notified the City of San Jose Code Enforcement Department who investigated and immediately mandated that safeguards be made. It was only after the City of San Jose became involved did Spieker management agree to comply with Mr. McMahon’s request for changes at the Hamilton Ave. complex. On September 4th, 2012 Spieker Companies finally began replacing the 3rd floor windows with a safer fixed bottom design.
Unfortunately, while the San Jose Code Enforcement team was mandating changes to the San Jose building in June 2012, tragedy struck again when a young child fell two stories from an unprotected window at a Spieker complex in Mountain View. “It should not take a lawsuit, a subsequent investigation by city officials mandating code compliance, nor another tragic accident to get experienced, well funded apartment owners of multi-unit complexes to comply with the law and provide a safe living environment for guests, children and their families,” said Mr. McMahon.
“Despite the pending lawsuit against Spieker Companies, and the investigation conducted by San Jose’s Code Enforcement team revealing code violations, the company apparently refused to address these potential safety concerns at the dozens of other complexes they own. It was only after the second fall did the company change the window design for the Mountain View complex”, Mr. McMahon added . It is unknown whether Spieker will now institute a full safety review of all its properties or simply wait for another incident or code enforcement officer before taking remedial action.
Palo Alto based Spieker Companies owns, operates and manages numerous apartment complexes in California. It is believed that the named defendant, Richard Tod Spieker, owns and operates nearly three thousand multifamily units, mostly throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
About Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard
Corsiglia McMahon & Allard is included in the US News & Best Lawyers - "Best Law Firms" 2011-12 law firm rankings. All three of its name partners, Bradley Corsiglia, Timothy McMahon and Allard, have been named as Top 100 Trial Lawyers by the National Trial Lawyers Association and also designated as “Super Lawyers”. Corsiglia and McMahon are members of the American Board of Trial Advocates (“ABOTA”).