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Folsom apartment owner sued over college student’s death

How the collapsed Folsom stairway was built

After a deadly 2015 stairway collapse, Folsom building officials determined bolts used to secure the stairs to the building pulled away from the deteriorating wood causing the stairs to give way underfoot.
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After a deadly 2015 stairway collapse, Folsom building officials determined bolts used to secure the stairs to the building pulled away from the deteriorating wood causing the stairs to give way underfoot.

A Bay Area family has filed a lawsuit over the July death of a young man in a Folsom apartment stairway collapse, claiming the property owner ignored dangerous conditions that led to the fatality.

The lawsuit filed in Sacramento Superior Court last week seeks unspecified damages from the owner, Gerson Bakar and Associates, the builder and others involved with the Legends at Willow Creek complex, where 26-year-old Shun Xiang Yuan of San Francisco was killed. Yuan, who was visiting friends at the complex, died when a stairwell between the first and second floors collapsed.

In a news release, attorney Mary Alexander said the death of Yuan, a student at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, devastated his parents. He was their only child.

The lawsuit accuses Gerson Bakar and others of malice, fraud and oppression – defined in state law as “despicable conduct” that disregards a person’s rights – and asks for damages that “make an example of and ... punish defendant.”

The company’s attorney, Tom Burch, said he could not comment because he has not seen the lawsuit.

The lawsuit repeats information that the owner and the city of Folsom confirmed in the days after Yuan’s death: Gerson Bakar was aware of unstable stairwells at the complex the year beforehand because a stairwell in a neighboring building had collapsed. No one was injured in the previous incident.

The lawsuit accuses Gerson Bakar of failing to warn residents of the dangerous conditions of the stairwells after the 2014 collapse.

A construction company received a permit from the city to shore up the stairway that killed Yuan, but the work was never completed. A Gerson Bakar spokesman has said he did not know why the work was not completed.

The lawsuit also takes issue with the construction of the apartments, saying the 15-year-old, 208-unit complex failed to meet building codes. Folsom’s chief building official said earlier this year that the construction met the city’s building codes, but added that a better design would have prevented or delayed the dry rot that caused the stairway to collapse.

The company agreed to rebuild stairways at the complex with a “through-bolt attachment technique with internal caulking that would not fail in the same manner,” according to a city report earlier this year, adding that the new stairways would include features “designed to prevent water intrusion and wood decay.”

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