Judge to Hear Case Involving Glass that Killed Retired Professor

A Pennsylvania civil court judge is weighing the merits of a wrongful death lawsuit involving annealed glass and could soon possibly render a decision that could have lasting ripples throughout the entire glass industry.

Judge Marilyn Horan of the Butler County Civil Court Division is expected to hand down a ruling on January 3 regarding the wrongful death suit filed by Cynthia Brunken following the accidental death of her husband this summer, according to officials at the Butler County Courthouse.

Glen Brunken was on his way to lunch on June 13 when he tripped and fell head-first through a glass door at a local Pennsylvania sandwich shop, suffering severe lacerations, according to court documents. First responders quickly arrived and began life-saving measures in the hopes of slowing the profuse bleeding, but the 69-year-old former Slippery Rock University professor soon succumbed to his injuries at a local hospital.

In her lawsuit, Cynthia Brunken alleges that the annealed glass at the front of Bob’s Sub and Sandwich Shop in Slippery Rock “constitutes a well-known safety hazard when broken because such glass can break into large, sharp and unreasonably dangerous jagged shards if impacted” and was culpable in her husband’s tragic death.

“Upon contacting the glass entrance doors, one of the panes of glass broke in such a way that it created large, sharp, and unreasonably dangerous jagged shards of glass that caused severe and serious lacerations and trauma to Mr. Brunken’s neck, face, head and body,” the complaint says.

Cynthia Brunken further alleges in the complaint that Cindy Marlowe, the owner of Bob’s Sub and Sandwich Shop, knew the glass doors were unsafe, and, “despite owning and operating the restaurant and premises for decades … never even attempted to make the plate glass entrance door even marginally safer, such as through the application of widely available safety films that are applied to glass and cost only a few dollars per square foot of coverage.”

Neither Marlowe nor Cynthia Brunken’s Pittsburgh-based attorney, David M. Moran, could be reached for comment at press time. Both sides had until December 23 to file their briefs with Horan, court administrative officials say.

Cynthia Brunken, who is seeking unspecified punitive damages, alleges in court papers that the tragedy could have been avoided had the plate glass entrance door conformed to safety standards or contained adequate protections.

“Despite the known and obvious risks involved with the use of plate glass or annealed glass entrance doors, the glass entrance door used at the Bob’s Sub and Sandwich Shop restaurant on June 3, 2013, contained dangerous plate glass or annealed glass, and did not incorporate adequate or safer glazing material, rendering the glass door unreasonably dangerous to customers, business invitees and specifically, Glen W. Brunken,” according to the complaint.

The case could hinge on whether the annealed glass in question complied with CFR 1201, the ruling devised in 1977 by the Consumer Product Safety with public safety in mind. It remains unclear when the annealed glass that killed Brunken was originally installed and whether or not it was before the advent of 16 CFR 1201 and therefore exempt from federal code or whether it was replacement glass. If it were replacement glass that had been installed after 1977, it should have been code-compliant.

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