A recent article by US Glass is the beginning of a very painful lesson that many developers and Insurance companies are going to learn the hard way. If you buy sub-standard glass product then you will yield the liability that comes with putting the concern of cost over the concern of quality and public safety.
Exterior glass facades and handrails are subject to the exposure of both hot and cold exterior environments. When glass explodes or falls and public safety is at risk it means generally one thing…..tort liability litigation. This type of litigation will render judgments and settlements in the millions per claimant and be just another cog in the wheel of an already messed up court system. Generally I am a believer that most litigation is unwarranted, but in this case I disagree, if someone is harmed because a developer chose an off-shore product for its savings only to find out the material did not provide the warranted standards, well then maybe he should pay, and pay and pay.
One problem, it won’t be the developer who pays, it will be his insurance company. After all the claims are paid, well then you know how this works, they raise everyone’s premium to pay for the losses, so it is us who will pay. It will take one really explosive construction defect case to get the insurance companies to notice and then maybe the playing field will be leveled if the insurance companies do their job and learn to differentiate between imported and domestic glass qualities and the projects they are willing to insure, but they won’t.
Let us for a minute assume that all the glass exploding and falling in Toronto is glass supplied from off-shore. The insurance company covers these losses and claims for not only the liability, but the replacement of work and changing out the glass to something safer. How eager will these insurers be in the future to insure projects with glass handrails on balconies. One can make the argument that all the glass on these projects came from someplace else, other than North America, who standards are not to the same quality and that insurers should make that distinction when evaluating new projects. I just don’t see any insurance company making that distinction and creating a divisive rating system for glass coming from different places, but I can assure you that whatever they do will end up being a negative in the world of development and ultimately hurt the glass industry.
In the end the best thing we can do is wait for a significant piece of litigation to be resolved, hopefully in our best interest, and then publicize it like there is no tomorrow. The health of the façade and handrail industries depends on it and by educating developers as to what they may face by selecting price over quality may be the only answer on how to get them to support the domestic industry.