While opening a bottle of wine recently, I struggled with a cork that was just plain stuck. After some serious effort with the Pulltap, Ah-So and just short of using my 9 iron, I got the thing open. But not without the thought of what might have been had the bottle burst and glass went flying. Who would be to blame? Not me of course…but who? The winery? The bottle maker? The cork supplier? Turns out, in all likelihood, it would have been my fault.
In Rabon-Willimack v. Robert Mondavi Corp. a bartender injured her hand after breaking a bottle of Robert Mondavi Woodbridge while opening the wine. The bartender alleged causes of action sounding in strict products liability, breach of warranty and negligence. In the end, the bartender could not prove her case as the Defendants successfully argued that there was no manufacturing defect and no flaw in the design as the “bottle fractured due to excessive force applied to the top of the bottle with a two-pronged fulcrum of a waiter’s metal corkscrew.” Nor was the court persuaded that Robert Mondavi had a duty to warn of the risks created by the use or misuse of another manufacturer’s products or of the danger of applying pressure to a glass bottle with a mental object while holding the bottle in one’s hands. The court concluded that the expert’s opinions were nothing more than specultaion:
“As the expert’s opinion was not supported by foundational facts, such as the results of actual testing of the bottle, a deviation from industry standards, or statistics showing the frequency of consumer complaints or injuries resulting from the alleged product defect, it lacked sufficient probative value to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether the subject bottle was not reasonably safe in its design.”
The moral of this story: be careful when opening your wine, but more importantly, be extra careful when choosing your expert.
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