Case of the Exploding Wine Bottle: Personal Injury Settlement

Alsp_bottle_001 A fascinating product liability case involved a wine conossieur who, while attempting to uncork a bottle of wine, was using a cork extractor which operates as follows: A needle is inserted through the cork, the user pumps the spring-loaded handle and air pressure then forces the cork out. The result is shown in the picture to your left. 

Mr. A. had owned the cork extracting unit for several years and, up to the date of his injury, had used it to uncork at least 200 bottles of wine. Although he reports that the cork is usually extracted on the fifth to seventh pump, the bottle exploded on the fourth or fifth pump on this grim occasion.  Alsp_hand_2

He reports that he immediately knew that his hand was dramatically injured because he could not feel anything and, as he held it up, blood started gushing heavily from the wound.  

It was my theory that the bottle itself was defective.  I engaged the services of a phenomenal expert, Fred Johnson, Ph.D., whose credentials as a professor of physics at Cal State Fullerton spoke for themselves.  Alsp_bottle_002 Dr. Johnson examined the bottle with the use of a high magnification microscope and determined that there were two major defects in the subject wine bottle: (1) Very uneven glass thickness and (2) an obvious glass anomaly (bubble), which weakened the bottle’s integrity, such that when the internal gas pressure was applied (in order to remove the cork) it caused a catastrophic failure of the bottle.

Mr. A. sustained serious injuries as a result of this manufacturing defect.  Alsp_hand_002_2 To whit, he suffered a laceration to the flexor tendon in the ring finger of his left hand.  Although doctors attempted to surgically repair the injury, Mr. A permanently lost the use of his finger (see photo to left)

Settlement: We were able to achieve a settlement for Mr. A against the bottle manufacturer and the store who sold it to him of over $100,000.

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3 comments

  1. Adam Carey on

    I actually just had a similar experience with a wine bottle from Beringer's Sparkling White Zinfandel line. I happened upon this page looking for an explanation of what I consider a rather freak accident.

    While trying to remove the cork on the wine, which is similar to a champagne bottle, the cork head broke off. I decided to used a corkscrew to remove the remaining cork in the neck of the bottle, but after the third turn, the entire neck of the bottle seemed to explode in my left hand, injuring me in several places and with a deep bleeding gash in my wedding finger.

    Fortunately, a visit to the doctor resulted in no stitches although my finger is currently numb to the touch and in a splint.

  2. Even i have witnessed a similar accident related to cold drinks bottles of glass having excessive gas pressure.
    My friend shook the bottle too much and it blasted from bottom and a piece of glass got into one of his eye.
    He was barely saved.

  3. That could have been dangerous if he didn't pull his hands away from the bottle. It can cause a deeper laceration. There is no doubt that the bottle has a defect because opening bottles is his profession. Anyway, it's a good thing that he was able to achieve settlement. The money can help finance his check-ups and his operation.