Volume 37, Issue 10, October 2002
Wired Glass News: Federal Lawsuit Filed; Consumer Reports Addresses Topic
It seems the wired-glass controversy may have reached its climax. For many, the question “is wired glass a safety glass?” has been one of much conflict and discussion. In the past two years the debate has become one of the industry’s most heated and controversial topics. Included in the controversy’s most recent events are a federal lawsuit and a
Consumer Reports article. The Children’s Safety Network (CSN) listserve, CSN Discuss, also sent out a message providing information on wired glass.
A federal lawsuit was filed on September 9, 2002, by Jarred Abel, 23, against Northwestern Industries Inc. of Seattle and Central Glass Co. of Japan, as well as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and its accredited standards committee (Z97.1). Abel was injured in January 2001 in a wired-glass accident and suffered severe nerve and tendon damage in his left arm (see related stories in the February 2002 USGlass, page 55 and the July 2002 USGlass, page 44).
According to the September 11, 2002, Register Guard the lawsuit claims that “wired glass is unsafe and regulators are negligent for not recognizing the risk posed by the material … ”
Abel’s lawsuit is seeking $25,000 for medical costs and $250,000 for loss of function in his arm. According to the Guard, attorney Rob Miller “will seek punitive damages after a hearing to argue that the glassmakers and regulators showed ‘outrageous indifference’ to the product’s risk.”
Since the accident, Jarred’s father, Greg, has done much to make both the state of Oregon, as well as the country, aware of the possible dangers of wired glass when used in inappropriate applications. He, along with the parents of other children injured by wired glass, have started a non-profit organization Advocates for Safe Glass, that is working to spread this message.
Media Coverage and Attention
Corresponding with the announcement of Abel’s lawsuit, Consumer Reports published an article covering the wired-glass debate in its September 2002 issue. The feature begins by telling the story of Abel’s accident.
“Such injuries are one reason [why] wired glass has come under scrutiny,” the article reads. “ … Experts believe that wired glass has been used improperly as ‘safety glass’ in some public buildings because it is assumed to be more impact-resistant than ordinary window glass. It’s actually not as strong as some other types of window glass …”
According to the Consumer Reports article, records of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) “show only nine wired-glass injuries in the past 20 years that were severe enough to require emergency-room treatment.” For this reason the CPSC has kept intact an exemption “from mandatory impact standards that wired glass has had for some 25 years.” Consumer Reports also noted that CPSC does not “specifically codify” wired-glass injuries. Advocates for Safe Glass, however, reportedly has documented more than 85 injuries since 1984.
According to Greg Abel, response from the Consumer Reports article has been tremendous. “We have received numerous calls and e-mails from those injured by wired glass and the parents of children injured by wired glass,” he said. “They are starting to come out of the woodwork.”
Likewise, in response to requests for information about wired glass, CSN used its listserve service to send out a list of websites that provide information about wired glass. The advisory included links to Advocates for Safe Glass’ website as well as articles in USGlass magazine (see February 2002, page 55) and Consumer Reports.
While Abel’s federal lawsuit, the article in Consumer Reports and the CSN’s advisory are all substantial developments concerning wired glass, the factor that could very well be the most serious implication has yet to unfold completely. Six Western states are in draft-stages of filing a class action lawsuit against the four foreign manufacturers of wired glass: Asahi, Nippon, Central and Pilkington.
“This is already in the works, and the rest [of the states in the country] will follow,” said Abel. He said the suit puts the responsibility of the costs to replace and retrofit existing wired glass that is non-compliant (with ANSI Z97.1) on the manufacturers. “This way the taxpayers and the schools don’t have to pay for it twice.”
“The Abel suit is not unexpected, but is unprecedented in its reach,” said Kim Mann, general counsel for GISC/GICC, the secretariat for ANSI Z97.1 accredited standards committee. “I am unaware of any other personal injury lawsuit in which the plaintiff asks the court to hold responsible for his injury the publisher of a voluntary industry test method /protocol for a building material (or other product) and the volunteer group that developed the test method.” He continued, “No court has, to the best of my knowledge, ever held that such remote ‘parties’ have a duty of care or other legal responsibility to the general public. What the Abel complaint seems to have lost sight of is the role of the building codes: they determine what product may or must go where, what level of safety it must achieve and what test verifying that level of safety must be conducted. The complaint does not allege the wired glass was installed in violation of the local Oregon building code.”
Key Communications Purchases Glassbytes.com
Key Communications Inc., publishers of USGlass and AGRR magazines, has announced the purchase of
from its previous owner. Glassbytes.com
is one of the premier sources of online information about the glass industry.
Virginia Glass Products Purchases Bystronic TPS Line
Martinsville, Va.-based Virginia Glass Products Corp. has purchased a Thermo Plastic Spacer (TPS) manufacturing line from Bystronic Lenhardt, and says it will soon be adding insulating glass to its product offerings. According to Virginia Glass, it is one of only three companies in North America to own a TPS manufacturing line.
Virginia Glass, part of the Virginia Mirror Co., says it will manufacture warm-edge insulating glass for the commercial construction market primarily. The product is expected to be available this month.
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