Ongoing Lawsuit Involves Spontaneous Breakage of Tempered Glass

A woman is seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages for injuries she says were sustained from broken glass at a federal building in Kansas City, Mo.

In April of 2013, Social Security Administration employee Jessie Cobbins sustained “permanent personal injuries” due to a tempered glass door at a federal office building that ‘exploded’ as she attempted to unlock it, according to court documents.

Cobbins filed a lawsuit against the general contractor, glass fabricators and contract glazier for damages of $800,000, alleging the defendants’ negligence in properly warning of and/or preventing the glass’ spontaneous breakage.

Each named defendant, including J.E. Dunn Construction, Insulite Glass Company of Olathe, Kan., Bratton Corp., Cimmaron Electric and Skyline Design of Chicago, deny the allegations. In its answer, door installer Bratton, asserts it “at all times complied with all applicable government and industry laws, codes, regulations and standards and thus Plaintiffs are barred from or not entitled to recovery herein against this answering defendant.” It adds that the plaintiffs “have failed to join necessary parties, including, but not limited to, the building manager responsible for the upkeep of the building and informing Defendants of any alleged defect in the finished building.”

J.E. Dunn was the general contractor for a project that involved the installation of the glass doors, which were fabricated by Insulite and Skyline Design, according to court documents. Cimmaron Electric is a construction company contracted by the General Services Administration.

Cobbins claims that the glass was defective and that the defendants had knowledge of at least three other similar doors in the building that shattered prior to the incident, and that they:

  • Failed to warn of the danger of the shattering of the tempered glass in said doors, and/or
  • Failed to take any steps to warn that such tempered glass doors were subject to spontaneous shattering or breakage from a foreign inclusion.
  • Failed to provide users with any knowledge or information concerning any steps which could be taken to protect themselves from injury from the shattering of the tempered glass in said doors; and/or
  • Failed to take any steps to provide further stability to said doors or provide any information on how they may have been stabilized further; and/or
  • Failed to take any steps to further strengthen said doors or provide any information on how they may have been further strengthened; and/or
  • Failed to take any steps to modify said doors, or advise that they should be so modified, so that, when shattered, they would remain in place in their frames, and not spontaneously burst apart onto users, such as plaintiff.

According to court documents, on the date of the incident, “while unlocking a tempered glass door in that office, the door exploded and glass particles fell severely cutting her right hand. … This required surgical repair of the tendons of the ring finger and a skin graft onto the middle finger; and she also required stitches to the laceration on the top of her left foot. That as a result thereof, she suffers from numbness and tingling in her right hand, which she is unable to fully use and will be disabled from fully using in the future.”

Robert K. Ball II and Martin M. Gorin were the counsel of record for Cobbins and her husband, Robert, but they withdrew from their involvement in the case last month, stating they have reached an “impasse as to the value of their case.” The attorneys add that they are “unwilling to invest time, energy and expense” in what they feel will “turn out to be a hopeless venture.”

Last week, Judge Ortrie D. Smith granted them leave to withdraw as counsel for the plaintiffs, and in doing so, extended deadlines and other dates related to the case.

The Cobbins, who in the meantime need to either retain new counsel or decide to represent themselves, have until May 6 to disclose expert witnesses, while the defendants have until June 6 to do the same. According to the order, pretrial discovery shall be completed and all discovery disputes raised on or before July 29, all motions to strike expert designations or preclude expert testimony shall be filed on or before August 29, and all dispositive motions shall be filed on or before August 29.

A final pretrial conference is scheduled for December 8, and the case is scheduled for a jury trial February 21, 2017.

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