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Uncorking Champagne this Holiday May Not Be a Cause for Celebration

Imagine that it’s New Year’s Eve, and it’s getting time for the clock to strike midnight. You’re with your friends at a party, and all of you are ready to ring in the New Year together. Perhaps this is the first year you’re able to enjoy champagne. You got a new job, and were able to make more money this year, thus being able to save up for nicer libations for your party. This is the first time you’ve ever had champagne, and as you pull the new bottle out of your refrigerator, and undo the decorative foil wrapping, you notice a wire contraption surrounding the cork plug. How do you open a bottle like this? There are no descriptions on the bottle anywhere. You try to give it a yank, and nothing happens. Well, on TV you’ve always seen famous celebrities and athletes shaking the bottles in celebration upon victories. Maybe that’s what you’re supposed to do because the bottle doesn’t say otherwise. Upon giving the bottle a hard shake, the cork top isn’t any easier to open. You shake it harder, and now you’re just getting nervous because you don’t want to look silly in front of your guests and look like you’ve never done this before, and it’s getting closer to midnight, and you need this poured already for the midnight celebrations. This time, you try with all your might and pull off the wire covering, and the cork shoots off hitting you in the face. Now, you are injured, which could have all been avoided had you had some directions on how to use the bottle.

This is a typical description of a scenario involving a legal term known as products liability. A manufacturer of a product must make known to its consumers all known warnings about its products and directions for proper use. If they do not, a company cannot knowingly guarantee that its consumers will know how to operate and properly use its product, even if the company assumes that the operation is common knowledge, and is therefore liable for personal injuries that result. Maybe to many people, it is “common sense” to not shake champagne and that the cork can fly off and cause injuries. However, if it is your first time ever using such a product, that is not so. If a product, like champagne, contains warnings on the label and instructions about proper use, a company is ensuring the safety of consumers who use its products when handled properly and where the product is without defect. Where a company can foresee that a product can cause a consumer harm, the company must place warnings on the products of known dangers and place instructions on the label for proper use. In that way, a consumer is not blindly purchasing a product unaware of the risks it consists.

Champagne bottles are a major area of concern for products liability because of the serious dangers they pose. According to CBS News, the American Academy of Opthalmology warns that champagne corks can cause major eye injuries, including permanent blindness. Other injuries also include eye wall rupture, glaucoma, retinal detachment, eye bleeding, and dislocation of the lens and damage to the eye bone structure. All of these injuries most often require emergency surgery, which can result in costly medical bills and physical suffering.

Where a company is aware that such personal injuries can occur as a result of their products, they are liable in instances where consumers are injured from using a product unknowing of the risks and proper handling. According to the same article by CBS News, champagne bottles can cause injury so easily because they actually contain more pressure than a car tire in a double decker bus. This is as high as 90 pounds per square inch, which means that a cork can fly towards the eye at 50 miles per hour. To understand how serious this is, that is the speed of many motor vehicles on the road, and that type of force going solely toward your eye is extremely dangerous.

The warnings on your champagne bottle should tell you to keep it chilled to at least 45 degrees Fahrenheit. A warm bottle is more likely to pop unexpectedly. The label should also warn to never shake the bottle and that when opening it, to point the bottle at a 45-degree angle away from yourself and bystanders. You should keep your palm over the cork when removing the wire covering. Place a towel over the top of the bottle while you grasp the cork to open it. Do so while you continue to twist the bottle until you break the seal.

If you have ever used a product, and the label or instructions did not make you aware of proper use and handling, and suffered personal injuries as a result, this could be a product liability case. Our firm is passionate about safety in consumer products and takes pride in the fact that our hard work has brought about substantial changes in removing defective products from the market to prevent future personal injuries and suffering. If you’ve been injured due to use of a product, contact us for a free consultation.