Months after a deck collapsed at a Langley wedding reception, more than a dozen victims have filed lawsuits seeking damages from the home’s owner, a construction company and the township.
The second-storey deck collapsed when over 100 members of the bride’s family gathered for a preparation ritual before the traditional ceremony at the Aldergrove property on April 19.
Up to 40 people — including a toddler and seniors — were taken to hospital, with at least 15 of them suffering serious injuries including broken legs. Two victims were in comas for more than two months.
Those two are among 17 plaintiffs who have filed notices of civil claim between September and October in B.C. Supreme Court. All of them name Amaroo Estate as the owner of the property, claiming the business provides “executive style furnished accommodations.”
According to the lawsuits, the bride’s father Jaswinder Garcha entered into an agreement with Amaroo Estate last August to use the property between April 16 and 23.
In an interview at his home in Penticton Sunday, Garcha said there was no warning about the deck’s weight capacity when he signed the contract with the owners, nor were there warnings at the property itself.
“There was no sign on the deck,” he said. “They never told me, and it was not mentioned in the contract. I don’t want to go into details because it’s with the lawyers, but there were no signs, they told me you could use the deck.”
The lawsuits detail how the guests had gathered to take photographs on the deck, which was attached to the main residence about one storey above a concrete slab.
“All I see on the deck is ‘bang!'” Garcha remembered. “That’s it, there was no warning, there’s nothing.” Within seconds, the entire group was on the ground below.
The bride herself, Rinku Garcha, was not seriously hurt, but said Sunday she’s still able to recall the “tragic” event immediately.
“I get a little bit of sadness because I didn’t get that one day with my family,” she said. “Just happiness, laughter that turned into such chaos and sadness.
“It was like something you would see in a Hollywood movie, not something that you would see right in front of your eyes that just happened in a split second.”
Garcha, the father, suffered a sprained foot and was otherwise OK, but he says he still has flashbacks to that day. According to the lawsuits, he’s far from alone.
“Everyone is recovering (physically), but mentally everybody is not stable yet,” he said. “They are still going through a lot of issues.”
Serious injury claims
One plaintiff, Amarjit Garcha, fractured her right leg, right collarbone and right rib, and suffered various cuts and soft tissue injuries.
Another, Kirandeep Garcha, suffered a compound fracture to her left leg and injuries from her tailbone to her neck. Family members say the soft tissue injuries to her right leg could mean she’ll never drive a vehicle again.
Other claimants say they have experienced fractured and broken ankles, feet and wrists in the collapse. Many of them suggest their physical disabilities will be permanent, requiring them to miss work and daily activities.
The two plaintiffs who were in comas, Chandanjit Gondara and Baljit Boparai, claim they suffered traumatic brain injuries along with memory and cognitive problems.
In the case of Gondara, Garcha says she’s still unable to speak or walk and is continuing to receive treatment in Burnaby.
Those two lawsuits also name Garcha as a defendant, claiming he did not take proper precautions to ensure the safety of his guests when signing the contract. Garcha insists he had no reason to believe anything was wrong.
“If we were made aware of it or if there were signs, yes we would have taken precautions,” he said.
The lawsuits all claim the collapse was caused by negligence on behalf of both the directors of Amaroo Estate and the builders of the deck, named as ABC Construction Company.
No reasonable inspection or maintenance systems were employed for the deck, the lawsuits allege, while further claiming the deck was not built to proper building and fire codes or Township of Langley bylaws.
The plaintiffs also charge the township with failing to uphold its own bylaws in approving the deck to be built.
None of the allegations have been proven in court, and the defendants have not filed legal responses. None of the defendants would comment on the cases as they’re now before the courts.
Other family members, including Rinku and her father, are considering filing their own lawsuits in the days ahead.
Langley RCMP has not provided any updates on its own investigation into the collapse.
Garcha said he’s supportive of his family’s quests for legal compensation and is hopeful the incident will lead to better safety measures among property owners and those who rent them.
Mostly, though, he’s focused on ensuring himself and the rest of his family can recover from such a traumatic event.
“Every time, when I go to weddings or any functions related to the weddings, this image of my daughter comes right into my eyes,” he said. “It takes me a while to put that behind.”
Rinku said she’s hopeful the family will eventually be able to put the event behind them.
“We’re just thankful we all have each other,” she said.
—With files from Shelby Thom