Federal Court to Decide Shattered Glass Incident at W Hotel in Austin

It’s now up to a federal court to decide who is responsible for the shattered glass that shuttered a W Hotel in Austin, Texas, a little more than two years ago and forced the evacuation of guests and nearby residents.

courthouseThe lawsuit filed by insurers after glass balconies at the W Hotel residences shattered and fell from the high-rise building has been moved from Travis County Court to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, according to recently filed court papers.

David Schubert, the lead attorney for the Illinois-based plaintiff, Old Republic General Insurance Corp., did not return calls seeking comment. However, Old Republic is seeking damages of more than $1 million from Xinyi Glass and Steel Studio for what it calls the “defectively manufactured glass” used in the project, according to court records.

Xinyi Glass provided the glass products for the construction of the balcony railings at the W Hotel project, while the South African-based Steel Studio supplied the stainless steel railing system used in the project. Efforts to reach attorneys from either defendant were unsuccessful on Monday.

The work was “complete or substantially complete” when the project suffered “three catastrophic failures of some of the glass balcony” between June 10 and June 28, 2011. The glass railings shattered “without obvious explanation” and raining down onto other parts of the project, into the pool area, onto adjacent buildings and into the street and onto other nearby areas, according to court papers.

The hotel shut down for “certain periods of time” following the incident to fix the problem, leaving owner CJUF II 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 made an insurance claim to Old Republic General Insurance Corp for its policy limit of $2 million to partially satisfy Stratus’ claims, according to court documents filed by Old Republic.

In filing the suit, Old Republic charges that the defendants were negligent in providing glass to them that included nickel sulfite inclusions, thereby rendering them “susceptible to sudden failure under certain conditions” and/or “inadequate” stainless steel railing systems used for the top and bottom of the glass balconies.

Both Xinyi Glass and Steel Studio have denied the allegation in court documents.

Both sides are seeking a jury trial to settle the matter.

1 comment on this post.
  1. Pulp It — Thoughts from Bernard Lax | Pulp Studio Blog » WHO DO YOU BALME FOR THIS?:

    [...] Once again we see another project where glass has been supplied for handrails and is failing. Nobody has rendered a definitive cause but if it smells like a fish, and tastes like a fish, then it must be nickel sulfide inclusions. I have started to realize that you really can’t blame these Chinese suppliers. This is the quality of glass that some of them make and if it is inferior so be it. The blame lies with the specifier and the General Contractor who fail to vet these items, and more importantly who ignore the news. It isn’t like this potential issue hasn’t been an issue in the past two years. Instead ignorance is bliss and they many of these folks play the risk game. If they can get it cheaper then throw caution to the wind. Maybe this costly lesson will be driven home by the insurance companies. This could be the start of something big! [...]

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