Oregon Jury Awards Injured Victim of Wired Glass Accident
July 1, 2011

A Multnomah County, Ore., jury, has determined that Portland Public Schools (PPS) was negligent in a 2007 accident, in which then 13-year-old Shakiya Sargent’s right leg pierced the lower glass lite of the interior wire-glass doors that separated the cafeteria from the art hallway at Beaumont Middle School. The jury awarded Sargent $222,000 in damages; reports, however note that due to tort limits this will be capped at $147,000.

According to the complaint the accident occurred when Sargent was late for art class and, with her arms loaded with books, kicked the heavy door open with her right foot. As the complaint alleges, “the glass in the door was wired glass, designed not to shatter upon contact.” It also alleges that the defendant, PPS, was “warned by the superintendent of Public Instruction about documented serious injuries to students as a result of collisions with wired glass.”

The complaint reads that “the defendant knew that students foreseeably run in school hallways; and that wired glass in a doorway located in a high traffic and spill intensive area between the cafeteria and adjacent gymnasium, outdoor exit and classroom, causing students to be subjected to an unreasonably greater risk of severe injury.”

Greg Abel, whose son Jarred was severely injured in a 2001 wired glass accident, was retained by the law firm as an expert in the case. He explained to USGNN.com™ that PPS has taken a strong position against wired glass code change proposals, including former senator Vicki Walker’s 2003 Senate bill, which Abel says was also heavily lobbied against.

According to Abel, prior to Sargent’s accident the school system had received memos and notices concerning wired glass. For example, in 2003 Susan Castillo, superintendent of public instruction with the Oregon Department of Education, issued a memo to public school superintendents informing them about new building codes that require all glass in areas subject to human impact to meet recognized impact standards. However, according to one local news report “when Keith Dozier, one of Shakiya's lawyers, deposed teachers, custodians and administrators at Beaumont, not one remembered a single word of warning from the district on the problems with wire glass in the four years after Castillo's memo.”

While this most recent ruling may be a victory for Sargent, Abel, who has spent the past decade speaking out and lobbying against the unsafe uses of wired glass, says there is still much work to be done.
“The unfortunate part is that there’s so much wired glass out there and it’s only a matter of time before something like this happens again,” says Abel.

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