A federal suit resulting from a shattered glass incident at a W Hotel in Texas more than two years ago will be moving forward without one of the original defendants when the pretrial conference begins on Friday morning before Judge Lee Yeakel of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.
Steel Studio USA Inc. recently filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in Delaware and has been released from all claims in the case, according to court records. That leaves Xinyi Glass alone to face negligence and breach-of-contract charges by Illinois-based Old Republic General Insurance Corp. The three incidents of falling glass occurred at the W Hotel in Austin between June 10 and June 28, 2011, raining glass down upon the surrounding area and forcing the hotel’s closing for a period of time, as well as the immediate evacuation of guests and nearby residents.
The hotel shut down for “certain periods of time” to fix the problem following the third incident, prompting building owner CJUF Stratus Block 21 LLC to file a claim against general contractor Austin Building Co. “in excess of $9 million,” according to court records. Austin Building then demanded that Old Republic provide liability insurance coverage to it and other contractors under the policy.
Old Republic, which now seeks to recover more than $1 million, contends the incidents were the result of “defectively designed, engineered and/or manufactured balcony railings (from the Steel Studio railing system) and/or defectively manufactured glass panels” supplied by Xinyi Glass to subcontractor Custom Components LLC, according to court documents.
China-based Xinyi Glass has denied any negligence on its part, saying that it properly explained the tendency of tempered glass to spontaneously break to Glass 3 Enterprises (GE3), the company that bought the 10 millimeter lites of clear, tempered glass before selling it to Custom Components LLC for installation. GE3 refused an additional heat-soak treatment that may have prevented such an occurrence, says Paul Huckabay, the San Antonio-based attorney representing Xinyi Glass, according to court papers.
Efforts to reach either Huckabay or David J. Schubert, the Dallas-based attorney representing Old Republic, were unsuccessful Thursday morning.
Old Republic alleges that the problems began when the hotel’s glass railings shattered “without obvious explanation” on June 10, June 27 and June 28, 2011, raining glass down into the hotel’s pool area, onto adjacent buildings and into the street and other nearby areas, according to court papers.
In filing suit in July 2013, Old Republic alleges that Xinyi Glass was negligent by providing glass to them that included nickel sulfite inclusions, thereby rendering them “susceptible to sudden failure under certain conditions.”
Old Republic says it plans to add Quality Design Services LLC as a defendant in the case in early January, alleging that the Florida-based company was negligent in designing certain aspects of the railing system that contained the glass that shattered.