Lt. Col. Bryan Smith, Construction Site Safety Consultant
Case Description: The plaintiff was exiting her relative’s home shower when the shower’s glass door shattered into pieces, and shredded her leg.
Expert Analysis: A field inspection was performed approximately three and a half years subsequent to the incident at the request of the homeowner’s insurance company, in order to determine if the plaintiff’s actions were negligent and causal to the incident. Photos and measurements were taken at that time and they evidenced that the shower enclosure door had been replaced in-kind prior to the site inspection. The moveable portion of the shower door was supported by two rollers on a horizontal rail. The rail had cushioned bump-stops at each end of travel.
As the shower user pushed the sliding door open or closed, with more force than necessary to reach the bump stops, the sudden cessation of travel when the roller hit the bump-stop caused the door to rotate in the upward direction. The design of the door hardware included a cam locking device, which was placed below the horizontal track to prevent the track rollers from jumping off the rail. The cam lock device was to be situated and adjusted such that it left a space narrower than the roller’s engagement of the track’s upper surface (see the space between the two yellow arrows).
The replacement door’s cam lock devices were found to be loose at the time of the site inspection and were out of proper adjustment. Even the new door wasn’t installed with a proper adjustment, which could have led to an identical failure as the first incident. A special tool was necessary to tighten the cam lock enough to prevent it from moving out of the proper setting, and this tool was not given to the homeowner for their use. While it had been possible that the cam lock could have loosened over time due to operation and cleaning, it was likely that it was not properly adjusted when it had first been installed by unknown parties. This inspector readjusted the cam locks for proper clearance and tightened them to avoid another incident. The homeowner was also instructed on what to look for when the door was cleaned and what to do if cam locks loosened again. A report was rendered to the insurance adjuster.
Result: The plaintiff’s actions were determined not to be causal to the failure of the glass shower door.
Lt. Col. Bryan Smith, Construction Site Safety Consultant with DJS Associates, Inc., can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.