By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Since Northridge, Lincoln has had 20 separate lawsuits filed against it by building owners, each trying to hold the company responsible for a history of ignoring E70T-4’s faulty nature (Universal is one of the plaintiffs). All of the suits are either pending, have been settled out of court or were voluntarily dismissed. Meanwhile, Lincoln Electric refuses the notion that E70T-4 is to blame for this mess. Though the product has been banned from future construction in the city and county of Los Angeles, and despite a small warning label, it‘s still on the market throughout the world.
Attorney George Soneff hopes to put Lincoln and its product in front of a jury for the first time later this year. Filing on behalf of a Westside building owner, Soneff and his partners, Craig Collins and Richard Norton, will ask the Los Angeles County Superior Court to force Lincoln Electric to pay in excess of $20 million in compensation to the citizens of Los Angeles. Soneff plans to argue that Lincoln Electric should send warnings to building owners, inspect all welded steel-frame structures in Los Angeles to determine if they were constructed with E70T-4, and if it’s found, gouge out the brittle weld metal and replace it with a stronger product.
Unless that or some other litigation changes the picture dramatically, however, the E70T-4 welds already in use across Los Angeles will be allowed to stand untouched. It‘s a prospect that prompts Atilla Zekioglu, a steel-frame specialist at the L.A. office of the engineering firm Ove Arup, to muse philosophically. ”You say it’s a natural disaster, but it‘s actually a man-made disaster. We are the ones building these buildings.
“And I don’t think we need to point fingers and blame people. This is a science that has evolved tremendously in the last decade or two. We just didn‘t know about it, and now we do. So should we do something about it, or should we ignore it?” Zekioglu thinks the answer has to be yes. “I don’t think ignoring it solves anything. Sooner or later you have to pay for it, somehow. What if it happens tomorrow?”
The transformation of Richard Holguin, at one time a mild-mannered champion of seismic safety, encompasses the full range of the city‘s steel-frame dilemma. He says the news that came earlier this year, the discovery of a major new fault line directly under downtown L.A., didn’t even cause his department to flinch. The fact is, it will take a lot more than an impending catastrophe to inspire costly political action in L.A. “Retrofit ordinances are passed after earthquakes,” Holguin says with a shrug. He concludes with a passive grin. “People have a tendency to forget real quick.”
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