Investigating Forensic Inspecting
According to inspector Joey Caballero, the best thing about “forensic inspecting” is the challenge. “It’s not like a typical report. These cases make you concentrate more and work harder. They make you a better inspector.”
Caballero, inspecting 12 years, has handled 15-20 cases over the years where he’s been called in to give his expert opinion on the work of a contractor, trades person or fellow inspector. Sometimes it involves testifying in court (at $200 an hour). While he doesn’t solicit the work, lawyers, real estate agents and homeowners in his area know him by reputation. And by his credentials. Caballero is current president of the Florida Association of Building Inspectors and past present of ASHI’s South Florida Chapter.
“Expert witness work is typically done by a select group; usually old-timers with a lot of experience. The key to getting the work is having the credentials.”
The key to being successful is being thorough and professional. “I do my homework. I do the research, assemble my findings in an easy to understand binder and can back it up in a profession manner if I have to.” According to Caballero, he’s never lost a case.
The following is his first personal account of a recent case in which he was asked his expert opinion. You may never inspect a glass shower door the same way again.
I was hired as an expert witness by a lawyer in a case involving a person who had a tendon in his foot severed by a heavy sliding glass door shower panel while he was taking a shower. The shower enclosure has two sliding glass door panels, the type with no frame around the edges. One of the glass panels shattered into pieces. The investigation involved finding the cause of the accident.
I arrived at the property the next day and found the shower floor covered with glass and blood (the scene was left untouched pending my investigation). One of the two door panels was intact. The door that was intact was held in by two drilled brackets on the top and one plastic track holder at the bottom. This plastic clip was secured to the track by a small screw drilled in the bottom of the enclosure track. The panel that broke also had the two top brackets and the plastic clip at the bottom but I could not find the screw that was supposed to secure the bottom plastic clip in place.
After searching through the broken glass and taking pictures, I realized the track for the broken panel did not have a drilled hole mark where the plastic clip was suppose to attach. I put two and two together and concluded that the plastic clip holding the panel that broke was never screwed in at the bottom. The panel swung into the shower and the weight cracked the upper bracket connections, causing the glass to fall on this poor innocent person.
The person taking the shower was a vacationing friend of the owners; the shower had not been used since this (million dollar) home was remodeled six months prior. Ouch!!!
Live and Learn
According to Caballero, this case has touched a nerve among many inspectors who now look twice at these glass shower doors and take nothing for granted.
“When you see things like this you can’t help but ask yourself: ‘What if it had been me inspecting the shower,’” Caballero said. “So as a result of this case, our company, and many others have added language to their reports when there are heavy glass shower doors.”
The language is: “Suggest preventive safety maintenance; install additional bottom track guides support to prevent heavy-duty frameless glass panel from swinging free.”