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Jun 14 2013

School District Settles for $2 Million and Apologizes

Category: Glass,NewsLori @ 10:04 am Comments (11)

I’ve gotten in the habit of looking at wired glass to see if it has a certification mark for impact-resistance.  Almost none of the existing wired glass that I’ve seen has the mark, which means that unless it has field-applied film (I haven’t spotted any film yet), it is extremely hazardous.  When I see kids running down the school corridors or swarming the exit at the end of the school day, I worry about impact with the glass, and the resulting injuries.  Our kids are supposed to be safe at school, but the majority of schools have traditional wired glass in place.  And if administrators think they are protected from liability, a precedent is being set that indicates otherwise…

From US Glass Network News:  School District Settles for $2 Million and Apologizes

The Kent (Wa.) Unified School District is out $2 million and is publicly apologizing after agreeing to settle a lawsuit stemming from a glass-related incident at one of its schools that nearly resulted in the death of a student more than five years ago.

Sources close to the situation say the deal ends a suit brought against the school district for negligence following a December 2007 mishap in which a then- 15-year-old high school student fell while climbing atop a stack of rolled up wrestling mats. The young man nearly bled to death after careening into the nearby wired glass and nearly severing off his entire arm.

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11 Responses to “School District Settles for $2 Million and Apologizes”

  1. Jim says:

    Has there been a method for glass replacement shops to protect themselves from being liable for providing wired glass to the schools requesting these products?

  2. gunter says:

    actually, most injuries from ‘kids’ and wire glass are from bad behavior. Out of control brats, punching and kicking the glass is the main cause. Let natural selection run its course and no lawsuits. Nice job liberal parents!!

    • Greg Abel, Advocates for Safe Glass says:

      I wish to respond directly to the comment made by Gunter, I know nothing about his
      qualifications in order to make such a profound statement but he is entitled to his opinion
      as long as he is qualified to do so. The problem with making unfounded statements is that
      there will be a segment of readers that will form an opinion based merely on what they
      read making no attempt to become the least bit informed before developing an opinion. If
      I may, I would like to first state my qualification on this subject, wired glass.

      I am the founder and chair of an organization called Advocates For Safe Glass. I founded
      this shortly after my own son Jarred was severely injured by wired glass while exiting the
      sports complex at the University Of Oregon in 2001. My wife Kathy would tell you that I
      became obsessed with the question of wired glass in relation to human impact, if my
      obsession was correct I will only say, that is what parents do when they have a child of
      there own or learn of a child injuried, we try to fix it and hopefully prevent feature
      injuries from happening. What I did at this point was to spend countless hours
      researching wired glass and injury data not only here in the US but abroad. What I
      learned was quite startling. Wired Glass is not safe glass and was determined so by the
      Consumer Products Safety Commission in 1977. It was further determined in the UK in
      1994 to be an unsafe product and was banned from use in hazardous locations in the very
      country which was the leading manufacture of wired glass the UK. But this unsafe
      traditional wired glass product continued to be allowed to be sold in this country because
      of the dominance of the wired glass industry on virtually every regulatory body. And
      because of the misguided blame on the victims themselves.

      Now I will get to my point, I was the proponent of the code change not only in the State
      of Oregon, State of Washington and the International Code Council that eliminated the
      long standing exemption that the wired glass manufactures had enjoyed at the expense of
      our children for over 30 years. This was not achieved by merely making false or
      unfounded comments but was a result of an educated presentation to various code
      councils nation wide but also to Members of Congress and the CPSC and the co
      sponsorship with Members of Congress a Symposium on Capitol Hill to educate
      members of the Department of Education and members of the American Institute of
      Architects on the hazards of wired glass. Sense the successful elimination of wired glass
      from hazardous locations in all occupancies nation wide, I went on the serve as Vice
      Chair of the Fire and Safety Glazing Council, Co Chair of Oregon Structural Code
      Subcommittee on Glazing and have been recognized by the courts as an expert on the
      brakeage characteristics of wired glass in hazardous locations. I am also the President of
      Safe Glass Consulting and the Director of Government Relations for Safe Glass

      I have not taken this approach in order to toot my own horn but to make an attempt to
      demonstrate my contempt for the comments made by Günter. If you would be so kind to
      provide the readers of Lori’s blog the basis for your comments and your qualifications to
      do so it would be greatly appreciated.

      I also might add that as Chair of Advocates For Safe Glass I enlisted the help of one of
      the leading world experts on injury surveillance Dr. Philip Graitcer formally of the CDC
      and it was determined that 90% of the annual glass related injuries in schools K – 12
      involved wired glass. If you were to multiply this number by the length of the exemption
      from the federal safety glazing standard we would come up with about 67,000 injuries to
      our children and young adults.

      If I may, I would like to present one document which clearly supports my position with
      regard to wired glass and it’s safety and allow you the readers the opportunity to make an
      educated choice:

      Mr. Scott Heh
      US Consumer Product Safety Commission
      4330 East-West Highway
      Bethesda, Maryland 20814-4408

      Dear Mr. Heh:

      On October 22, 2003, you and your colleagues at the Consumer Product Safety
      Commission (CPSC) met with my constituents, Greg Abel, Chair of Advocates for Safe
      Glass and Oregon State Senator Vicki Walker regarding the hazards of wired glass.
      I hope you and your colleagues had the chance to review the impressive package of
      materials Mr. Abel has compiled, including the photos of the tragic but preventable
      accidents that have occurred due to wired glass.

      As Mr. Abel mentioned in his presentation, it’s misleading for wired glass in this
      country to be sold as safety glass particularly when the American standard has been
      tested and rejected in the UK and been replaced with a higher standard.
      Thanks to the efforts of Sen. Walker and Mr. Abel, Oregon is the first state in the nation
      to adopt the new International Council Code (ICC) safety regulations limiting the use of
      wired glass in hazardous locations in schools and athletic facilities in all new
      construction beginning October 1, 2003 and in all other construction starting October 1,

      I urge you to carefully examine the research that Mr. Abel has completed, immediately
      initiate your own study, and at the very least, issue a public warning about the potential
      hazards of wired glass, especially in public places where children are active, such as
      schools, libraries, community centers, etc.

      Thank you for your consideration of my request.

      Member of Congress

      In closing, if I may quote Lori of this blog, “When I see kids running down the school corridors or swarming the exit at the end of the school day, I worry about impact with the glass, and the resulting injuries. Our kids are supposed to be safe at school, but the majority of schools have traditional wired glass in place.”

      These are just children Günter you seem to have forgotten that – shame on you. Oh by the way, Happy Fathers Day.

      Greg Abel – Advocates For Safe Glass

  3. Eric says:

    Mr. Greg Abel,
    You beat me to the punch. I was going to ask Mr. Gunter for some backup to that claim. His comment seems to have more of a political agenda and this isn’t the blog for politics. I’m guessing Mr. Gunter doesn’t have kids, but if he did, they would be perfect children – no doubt.

    The work you (Mr. Abel) have done and continue to do is admirable. Thanks for helping make us all a little bit safer. Are you ready to take on the latest and greatest security issues now?

  4. David R. DeFilippo says:

    Kids are Kids – Insurance settlements are not replacements for lives. In my humble opinion, changes like requiring schools to fix this issue will only happen when insurance companies force the schools into action or pay higher premiums for not fixing it. You could replace a lot of wire glass for $ 2M plus a child may still be alive.

  5. Len Brunette says:

    Mr. Abel’s points are well taken. I’m sure that while Mr. Abel’s son was participating in a basketball game the furthest thing from his mind was that the glass in the door at the end of the basketball court was “UNSAFE”. I would think that the majority of people would believe that this particular type of glass was a safety or security product due to the wire mesh inside. We can thank Mr. Abel and his Foundation, Advocates for Safe Glass, for making it known that this product is neither a safety or security glazing material. We can thank Mr. Able for spearheading the change in our building codes regarding the use of this product. It’s unfortunate that while we now understand the danger of this product we have to realize that there are miles of square footage of it in our public facilities. Probably the greatest use of this product is in our public schools, facilities we send our most precious and innocent members of our families to each and everyday. We must take actions to address the existing product and make it a “safe” product until it can be changed to one of the newer and improved life safety products.
    Lori, thank you so much to continuing to address this issue. There are ways to remedy the existing product and meet code requirements. Continue the good work.

    Len Brunette
    President of Safe Glass Solutions

  6. Charles Hall says:

    As a father of two boys and as a responsible citizen, I find the whole wired glass situation beyond ridiculous. Here we have the problem identified, the remedy available and the tragic results of negligence evidenced in maiming, disfigurement and death, all in plain view. For five plus years I have been assisting Mr. Abel in his efforts to effect a change and I am still perplexed at the seeming indifference the governing bodies display. What more must be done to create a motivation to change?

    What are the true reasons for the lack of action? Is the attitude of the angry and resentful Gunter more pervasive than I would like to believe? Natural selection? A large part of natural selection is the adults of a species is nurturing and protecting their offspring to improve the percentage of survival…As fellow parents and citizens I would hope that others would join in the efforts to ensure the well being of our future generations.

  7. Vicki Walker says:

    As Mr. Abel points out in his response to “Gunter,” his statements are completely unfounded, leaving the uninformed reader even more uninformed. While the Internet has afforded us a tremendous opportunity to broaden our universe of knowledge, it also has its drawbacks when bloggers can hide behind the mask of anonymity. “Gunter’s” post is so utterly absurd it makes you wonder who would say such a thing? Certainly not a parent of one of these injured children and young adults, certainly not an educator who witnesses the carnage and trauma inflicted upon these kids, and certainly not anyone concerned about safety in our schools.

    Mr. DeFilippo understands this kind of a settlement is hopefully a pathway for insurance companies to start demanding that school districts replace or retrofit existing wired glass. Unfortunately, it’s always about money in the end. It was about money for the wired glass cartel that made this dangerous product in the first place. They knew it could be made safer, but they chose not to because it cost a few dollars more. And by loading up the regulatory committees with wired glass advocates, they kept efforts at bay to develop and require safer products be installed in our schools, gymnasiums, day care centers and even in hospital waiting rooms!

    It’s not about politics…it’s about money. And if school districts choose not to heed the warnings that this glass is unsafe, then it is a risk they take when it comes to paying out on a claim. Unfortunately, the risk they take is with our children’s safety, and that truly is unforgivable.

    Vicki Walker
    Former Oregon State Senator

  8. Donn Harter says:

    After over 33 years of safety glazing codes writing and interpretation for the Uniform Building Code (UBC) and the International Building Code (IBC), I am appalled at the indifference of school districts to knowingly refuse to safeguard limbs and lives of our children.

    Having worked with the original safety glazing laws of the CPSC and the introduction of safety glazing codes into the “model code groups”, it was abundantly clear that wired glass and other annealed glass was an extreme hazard in windows and doors subject to human impact. Both the UBC and IBC recognized that tempered glass and laminated glass met the CPSC standards for safety glazing. Later, clear polyester films when properly applied to annealed glass met the CPSC standards. However, the ANSI Committee protected the overseas wired glass manufacturers with a lesser standard that continued to be referenced by the building codes. The turning point came with the diligent opposition by Greg Abel and Senator Walker of Oregon to pass the first Oregon State legislation prohibiting the use of wired glass as a safety glazing product.

    However, public buildings and schools continued to use wired glass in hazardous locations until the IBC adopted codes that prohibited its use in 2007.

    Historically, wired glass had been considered a safety and security product. It is neither a security or safety glazing product. It is a fire resistive glass.

    This brings us to the present. Schools and other public buildings continue to avoid safe-guarding the millions of square feet of the latent product, wired and other annealed glass. Scores of articles have been written about the failures of wired glass by Greg Abel, myself and a few others, yet to no avail. The schools present the worst exposure to our unsuspecting youth. Whether playing or accidentally falling into annealed glass, the results ate traumatic. Lives have been claimed and permanent injuries sustained.

    The remedies are here. Replacement with approved safety glass or filming. The schools are aware. The publicity of horrendous accidents and enormous settlements are eventually made public. It seems that the majority of school accidents never see the light of day. The liability factors and tremendous lawsuits (by some of the victims that bring suit) are an enormous cost to schools and school districts. Yet, this is the top of the iceberg. The loss of lives and permanent disability are the real issues.

    Schools claim they can’t afford to retrofit non-safety glazing windows and doors with safety glass. Yet, they will pay millions in laws suits. So the maiming goes on. As an example, in a recent settlement of a 2 million dollar lawsuit where a student went though a non-safety glazed window, the cost of filming that opening would have been less than $200!

    It is time to get our priorities in line. Budget for immediate retrofitting of non-safety glazed openings in our schools and public buildings and start saving needless loss of life and limb.

    Donn Harter
    Director of Technical Services
    Americas Glass Association
    and member of Safe Glass Solutions

  9. Brian says:

    Over the years I’ve worked with various types of safety glazing products, most well known include tempered and laminated glass. When I began in the glass industry over 20 yrs ago, the company I worked for distributed cases (truckloads) of glass including laminated safety glazing to school districts. During this time we also sold many cases of polished wire glass. At the time, many believed that this too was a safety glazing product. The belief was that the wires embedded inside would make the glass stronger & safer. In reality, it is just the opposite. The wire makes the glass weaker and when broken pose an even greater threat to injury! With so many choices available today, and even ways to make existing wire glass safer, it is just crazy to think that the potential for injuries can’t be greatly reduced. Kids will be kids; running, jumping, pushing, etc … and that is exactly how we should all want them to be. We’re making them grow up way too fast.

  10. Mark T. Freeley, Esq. says:

    I am a personal injury lawyer on Long Island, NY, and I became involved in wired glass litigation in 2009. At that time my neighbor’s son was severely injured by coming into contact with wired glass in a stairwell of our local high school. During the pendency of the litigation, the following unbelievable facts came to light. In March 2006, nearly 3 full years before my client’s accident, the New York State Education Dept., Office of Facilities Planning issued Newsletter #73. This Newsletter was displayed on their website for months and was sent via e-mail to our local school district, and our district admitted receiving it prior to my client’s accident. This Newsletter warned of the dangers of wired glass. In set forth, ” This is an important advisory concerning the use of wire glass in schools.” It warned that “…there is a common misconception that wire glass is impact resistant. This is not true, and in fact wire glass is only half as strong as regular plate glass.” It warned of the serious injuries that are inflicted by wire glass, and advised of several fire rated impact resistant glazing options and urged schools to research the options. It set forth ” Now for the difficult part, what do we do with the existing wire glass installations? We strongly recommend that all existing wire glass locations be evaluated for potential impact and injury.” Despite the strong wording of this newsletter, the school district attorneys argued to the court that they were merely “aspirational in nature”, and did not impose any duty upon the schools to replace existing wire glass.
    After taking multiple depositions of school employees and of the glass supplier to the district, the following was discovered. In the 2 1/2 year period prior to my client’s accident, there were 72 total incidents of glass breakage just in the high school. Out of the 72, 36(over half)involved broken wired glass, and out of the 36, 15(nearly half) involved broken wire glass in stairwells. On at least 38 occasions after the March 2006 Newsletter, and before my client’s accident, the district replaced broken wire glass with more wire glass! Moreover, after Jan.1, 2008 (the effective date of the 2007 NYS Building Code, which prohibited the use of wire glass as replacement glass), and prior to my client’s accident, the district replaced broken wire glass with more wire glass on 20 occasions! This amounted to 20 separate building code violations prior to my client’s accident. Then incredulously, after my client’s accident which severed almost all of the nerves and tendons in his wrist requiring complex surgery, the district replaced the broken wire glass with more wire glass in direct violation of the Building code ! My client sustained a complete transection of his median nerve, and transections of his palmar cutaneous branch of the median nerve, transection of the flexor carpi ulnaris, flexor digitorum sublimis, and palmaris longus. This replacement wire glass panel stayed in the stairwell door for over 1 year post accident. Then finally, in response to my lawsuit, the district replaced the single wire glass door panel with code compliant Firelite Plus glass. However, as soon as that glass panel became code compliant, the district took the entire door out as evidence in our case. What occurs next is inexplicable. Instead of installing a new door with code compliant, impact resistant glass panels, they remove an existing door containing wired glass panels from the basement of the same stairwell, and install it in the very same location where my client’s accident occurs. This staircase is the main stairwell of the high school was approximately 1,900 children attend. Further, despite being aware of the dangers of wired glass and the fact that it is non-impact resistant, they never advise or warn the students in any manner whatsoever. No signs or warnings, no assembly meeting, no addresses over the PA system…nothing. The conduct of the district lead to the perfect storm of danger for my client, and this danger still remains in every school in my district today. During depositions, the Director of Plant and Facilities for the district admitted that the district took absolutely no action in response to the 2006 newsletter, and that he was not even aware of what the building code requirements were as it pertained to replacement of wire glass. A deposition of the glass supplier for the district was just as sobering. The president of the company had no training nor had taken any courses regarding glass. Prior to my client’s accident he was not familiar with the NYS building code, and did not know if the code permitted replacement of wire glass with new wire glass. He also had no knowledge of fire resistant laminates, despite the availability of multiple fire resistant films that are available. According to the expert architect that I retained,these laminates would have provided ample impact resistance to the wire glass panel and would have prevented my client’s injuries. The cost of the laminate would have been about $20 a square foot installed, as per the architect.
    Now, despite all of the above facts, the school district was able to get my client’s case dismissed! Why? Because prior to my client’s tragic accident, the NYS Building code did not( and still does not !) require the schools to replace or retrofit the existing wire glass. Therefore, since the 2007 code only disallowed replacing broken wire glass with new wire glass, and the specific wire glass panel that injured my client had never been replaced after the 2007 Code became effective, he gets to live with the limited use of his hand and the school district gets off free and clear. Is this justice? Did the school district act responsibly? Is this the type of danger that we want our children to face day in and day out? Can’t the lawmakers come up with a game plan to better protect our children? Shouldn’t there be mandatory education for the school employees in charge of keeping the school buildings safe, and for the companies that supply glass to our schools? Shouldn’t the schools be compelled to establish mandatory wire glass remediation programs that are regulated by the states? The price being paid by these children who become so seriously injured by wire glass is too high, and the cost to eradicate the risk is nominal. Something has to be done and now.
    Mark T. Freeley, Esq.

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