VERTEX has served as a construction expert witness for thousands of projects where the construction claim is associated with standard of care, delays or construction defect litigation. Less common however, is when our specialized construction expertise proves invaluable in a criminal defense case.
VERTEX was contacted by Matthew Speredelozzi, a San Diego-based criminal defense attorney, whose client was facing serious criminal charges associated with the failure of an apartment balcony and stairway structure that resulted in near-fatal injuries to the victim.
VERTEX was asked to opine on the general condition, construction and structural integrity of the building’s rear stairs and balcony, including identifying any construction deficiencies and building code violations that may have contributed to the ultimate balcony failure.
VERTEX’s expert who served on this case, Stephen Wilson, has over 37 years of industry experience, and thorough knowledge of construction practices with a special emphasis on the building envelope as it relates to defect investigation. He has been designated in over 300 construction litigation disputes as an expert witness, making him ideally qualified for this unique assignment.
“The prosecution was alleging that my client pushed the victim off the balcony on purpose,” said Speredelozzi. “Stephen was able to show that the balcony was unsafe. His report showed that the balcony railing could not hold sufficient weight and was not up to code. This, in turn, showed that it was not the force of the push that likely caused the victim’s fall, but rather the poor maintenance of the property. Based on this, the District Attorney agreed to reduce the charges and allow my client a no-jail resolution. My client was facing a double-digit prison sentence before Stephen got involved.”
Services included a site inspection of the property and review of public records including the San Diego Police Department’s Property and Evidence records to inspect the physical pieces of the failed wood balcony structure. VERTEX then conducted thorough research of building records and permits, as well as relevant sections of the building codes and specifications pertaining to the property.
In the end, VERTEX identified more than a dozen critical problems with the property, including violations to building and housing code standards as well as a failure to keep the rented property in a “habitable condition” for tenants’ health and safety.
The site was a historical structure by celebrated architect Irving Gill. VERTEX determined the stairway involved in the incident was not part of the original design, but was added later with sub-standard workmanship and without the required permits. There was no record of inspection and it didn’t meet the minimum Code requirements. The resulting structural failure was compounded by the negligence of the property managers, insurance company inspectors, and the property owners, who failed to identify the defective conditions and to make the repairs required for the tenants’ health and safety.
“Your work on the case was outstanding,” added Speredelozzi. “We did a lot of looking before finding the right expert match for this case. The report you wrote was crucial in us brokering the deal with the District Attorney. This is a big win for our team and you were instrumental. Thank you for your hard work.”
This project was completed by Xpera Group, which is now part of The Vertex Companies, Inc.