Taipei, The Tainan District Court on Thursday ruled that six individuals must pay NT$450 million (US$15.29 million) to 128 victims and family members after 115 residents of their jerry-built building died in a magnitude 6.4 earthquake on Feb. 6, 2016.
The lawsuit was brought by 128 victims and relatives of those who died when the Weiguan Jinlong housing complex collapsed, seeking compensation of nearly NT$5 billion.
The defendants are Lin Ming-hui (林明輝), the owner of the now-defunct Weiguan Corp. which built the Weiguan Jinlong housing complex in 1993; Hung Han-hsien (洪汗仙), chief of the construction firm’s designing department; Cheng Tung-hsu (鄭東旭), contracted structural engineer for the building; Cheng Chin-kui (鄭進貴) and Chang Kui-pao (張魁寶), architects of the building project; and Hu Chia-chen (胡家禎), head of Daho construction consulting firm.
The defendants were deemed liable because the Weiguan Jinlong complex was poorly designed and shoddily built with inferior materials to cut costs, which contributed to the collapse of the building in the quake, resulting in death and injury, according to the ruling.
The district court ruled that in order to cut costs, Lin ordered Hung to minimize design work in the planning stage, cut back on the reinforcement of beam-column joints and reduce the size of some pillars when building the apartment complex, which undermined the structural safety of the building, according to the ruling.
Meanwhile, Cheng Chin-kui and Chang helped the company acquire construction certification and other documents without properly supervising the design work, according to the ruling.
In addition, Hu asked Cheng Tung-hsu to undertake part of the construction work despite being aware that Cheng was not a qualified structural engineer and there were flaws in the building structure proposal provided by his Daho consulting firm. Therefore, the company is also liable to pay compensation.
The ruling can still be appealed.
A total of six civil suits have been brought against the five individuals responsible for designing and building the Weiguan Jinlong complex and Daho construction consulting firm, including one by the Consumers’ Foundation, Chinese Taipei, seeking compensation of NT$3.5 billion.
On Jan. 16, the Tainan District Court handed down its final judgment in that case, requiring the defendants to pay over NT$700 million to compensate victims and family members of those who died in the building collapse.
In addition, Tainan District Prosecutors Office also filed a suit against the five individuals and the district court ruled on Jan. 17 that they should pay NT$75.36 million and interest to victims and family members of the victims. The case is currently in the second trial stage.
The five individuals each received a five-year prison sentence for negligent homicide in the final verdict on the criminal case brought against them. Lin has been serving his sentence since September 2017, while the other four began their sentences on March 4, 2019.
The Weiguan Jinlong Complex in Tainan collapsed on Feb. 6, 2016 in the magnitude 6.4 earthquake, killing 115 people and injuring 104.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel