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Glass Breakage Injury Investigation, Hotel, Atlanta, GA

Property Type: Hotel
Location: Atlanta, GA
Client: Attorney for Plaintiff (Injured party and parents)

Incident description:

A 16 year old male hotel guest was in the corridor outside the hotel room. There was a window between the corridor and the room. The male faked a karate kick at the glass in order to entertain his brother inside the room, but accidentally kicked the glass. The glass shattered, injuring him seriously.

The glass was approximately 57″ wide x 57″ tall x 1/4″ thick. It was not tempered or laminated. The bottom of the glass was 27″ above the floor.

Incident photo taken just after glass was broken
Incident photo taken just after glass was broken. Left: taken from room interior, Right: Taken from corridor. Large, dangerous shards remaining in frame are not safety glass

Glass Breakage Injuries: Severe lacerations to leg.

Documents reviewed by Façade Consultants (FC): The Complaint, interrogatories, Depositions of Plaintiff, witnesses, Property Manager. Review of hotel procedure manual and in-house safety inspections, GANA Glazing Manual and CPSC 16 CFR 1201 (Safety Standard for Architectural Glazing Materials).

Site investigation by Façade Consultants:

FC visited incident site twice. There was only one small piece of the original broken glass available for viewing:

Broken glass fragment from glass where teen was injured
Glass fragment from the window where teen was injured

The broken incident glass was replaced with tempered glass, however without any cushioning material such as silicone or glazing tape, and screws were missing on the removable glazing stops:

Replacement glass at injury location was poorly installed
Replacement glass at glass breakage injury location was poorly installed, without cushioning material or proper screws

During the initial visit FC noticed that the glass on the corridors, similar to the incident glass, often rattled in the steel frame. Sometimes one could see cardboard shims placed between the glass and frame, apparently to stop the rattling. Some screws at glazing stops were loose:

Glass is loose in frame. The screw is loose and cardboard was shoved next to the glass to stop it from rattling
Glass is loose in the frame. Not only is the screw is loose, but cardboard is shoved next to the glass to stop it from rattling

On the second inspection, FC came equipped with a survey form that allowed data collection on all corridor glass. It was found that 67% of the 234 corridor lites were rattling, and of them, 65% were rattling severely. 10 windows were found with objects stuffed in the frame, apparently to stabilize the glass.

What’s wrong with rattling glass?

Glass is a very brittle material, and the edges are the most vulnerable area. Glass edges must be protected by placing glass on hard rubber setting blocks and setting the glass so that the front and back of the glass edges are firmly compressed between a cushioning material. If glass rattles, this means the glass is hitting a hard material, probably the metal frame. Rattling occurs when hotel room doors open and close due to air pressure changes. With each rattle, the glass edge could get increasingly compromised. Then when a rambunctious teen guest, or a wobbly senior guest, or a running child inevitably impacts the glass, breakage can occur much more easily and glass breakage injuries are likely.

Hotel Safety Inspections

The Hotel, part of a large chain, had an extensive procedure manual that required periodic room inspections. However the condition of glass, whether corridor glass, shower enclosure glass, mirror glass or window glass was not on the inspection checklist. Glass, in general, was a “blind spot” in the inspection protocol, despite its potential for injury to guests.

Property Manager Knowledge of Glass Safety

In deposition, the Property Manager displayed knowledge of the existence of safety glass, what it does and how tempered glass breaks. However neither this knowledge nor the experience of the accident prompted her or her superiors to evaluate the glass on a more global basis or take action to prevent future glass breakage injuries. After the incident glass broken it was replaced with tempered glass with her knowledge. Here is the tempering logo:

Tempering logo on glass indicates it is safety glass
Tempering logo etched onto the glass indicates that it is safety glass, which is designed to reduce the severity of broken glass injuries
Opinion of Façade Consultants

The corridor glass was unsafe due to proximity to walking surfaces, especially due to the anticipated foot traffic along the corridor windows. The glass was weakened by improper glazing methods. The Hotel failed to maintain the glass in a safe condition and bore at least some responsibility for the severity of the injury. The Hotel had other glazing options that would have mitigated or eliminated the glass breakage and the resultant injury.

Disposition: Judge granted Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment based upon Plaintiff’s taking actions that he knew were inherently risky, with knowledge of the potential for glass breakage injury to occur when the glass is kicked.

Daubert challenge: Defense mounted a Daubert-based challenge on Mark Meshulam’s qualifications. The judge found in favor of Meshulam stating in summary:

1. Qualifications The Court finds Mr. Meshulam is qualified as a glass expert to render the proffered opinions.

2. Reliability The Court finds that Mr. Meshulam’s proffered opinions are reliable.

3. Helpfulness. The Court concludes that Mr. Meshulam’s testimony would be helpful to a jury. The subject of Mr. Meshulam’s testimony falls outside the average person’s understanding and has little tendency to confuse a trier of fact. Thus it survives the helpfulness inquiry.

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