Volume 50, Issue 6 - June 2015


Architects Added as Defendent in Safety Glazing Death Case

Two years have passed since Cynthia Brunken filed a lawsuit in Butler County, Pa., regarding the death of her husband, who was fatally injured after falling head-first through a glass door at a local sandwich shop.
At press time, the case is still very active.

Glen Brunken was on his way to lunch on June 13, 2013, when he tripped and fell through a glass door at Bob’s Sub and Sandwich Shop, suffering severe lacerations and trauma to his neck, face, head and body, according to court documents. The 69-year-old former Slippery Rock University professor later succumbed to his injuries at a local hospital.

His wife Cynthia originally filed a wrongful death suit against the shop and its owner, Cindy Marlowe, in the fall of 2013. The suit alleged that the annealed glass in the front of the shop “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 death, according to court documents.

She further alleged in the original complaint that Marlowe 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.”

The case has taken a few turns since it was first filed. Last year, Cynthia Brunken filed suit against N. Lee Ligo and Ligo Architects, as well as the building owner at the time, Slippery Rock Commons (SRC) and defendant Robert P. Woolston, for their roles in the allegedly negligent designs.

According to court documents dated April of last year, Brunken alleges that in 1989, the building underwent renovations and an expansion under the direction of SRC, which resulted in Ligo specifying the “relocation, use and installation of a set of old glass doors from another location in the building that was to be demolished to serve as the new front entrance doors to the new addition to the building.”

The old glass doors, according to the complaint, “did not otherwise comply with established safety glazing standards in violation of Borough of Slippery Rock ordinances as well as other laws, regulations and well-known safety standards. As such, Ligo’s drawings instructed and caused the use, installation and construction of unsafe, unlawful and non-conforming glass entrance doors in the South Main Street property.”

According to recent court documents dated March 2 of this year, Ligo stated it is “without information or belief as to the truth or falsity of the allegation that the doors were not safe, if they were old, or if they were made of annealed glass or plate glass. Strict proof of the same is demanded at trial. It is denied that Ligo’s drawings instructed and caused the use, installation, and construction of unsafe, unlawful, and non-conforming glass entrance doors in the property.”

The complaint alleges violation of the “Code of Ordinances of the Borough of Slippery Rock, including but not limited to Ordinance No. 328, establishing the 1981 edition of BOCA Basic Building Code with amendments as a standard building code in the Borough of Slippery Rock, and which made it unlawful to cause the construction, erection, alteration, extension, repair, use or occupancy of a building, structure or equipment in conflict with or in violation of any of the provisions of the code, including the use of glass doors of the kind used on the South Main Street property that did not otherwise conform to applicable human impact load and safety glazing standards.”

Upon denying allegations in March, Ligo also filed a cross claim against SRC and Woolston, requesting that judgment be entered solely against them.

Additionally, according to court officials, the cases against Ligo and Bob’s Sub and Sandwich Shop were in the process of being consolidated as of the end of April. The judge granted Ligo Architects’ motion to join Marlowe and Bob’s Sub and Sandwich Shop as a defendant, and also as of the end of April, the defendants had to file the appropriate pleading to move forward with the merging of cases.

—Nick St. Denis

Glazing-Related Codes/Regulations Cited in Negligence Lawsuit (per court documents)

• States Consumer Product Safety Commission
16 C.F.R. 1201|”Safety Standards for Architectural Glazing Materials”

• Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry
34 Pa Code§ 47.391|”Safety Glazing Material”

• American National Standard Institute
ANSI Standard Z-97.1 | “Safety Glazing Materials Used in Buildings’’

• Building Officials and Code Administrators International
BOCA|”Human impact loads”

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