Reader W. Daniel Troyka of Ann Arbor, Mich.'s Conlin, McKenney & Philbrick, P.C. sends along the following case advisory:
Below is the summary of an unpublished opinion recently issued by the Michigan Appeals Court. The decision allows a case to go forward against The Coca-Cola Company based upon spray exiting a can of Diet Coke into the plaintiff's eyes. Althought the Court rejected the theory that the can was defective, it found that the company could be held liable for failing to warn consumers that "the beverage might exit the can at a high velocity upon opening." Expect to see a lot more language on your coke cans in the future.
The complete opinion can be found by going to http://www.michbar.org/e-journal/040506.html , scrolling down to e-journal no. 31151, and clicking on the Full Text Opinion link.
Although the trial court properly granted defendants summary disposition on plaintiff�s attempts to prove a defect in the Diet Coke can, the trial court erred in holding plaintiff failed to offer proof of the beverage�s potential harmful chemical composition and she offered sufficient proof her exposure to the beverage may have been the proximate cause of her SLK and dry eye. Thus, a genuine issue of material fact existed as to the potential danger of the beverage, and it was error for the trial court to grant defendants summary disposition. Plaintiff claimed to have suffered eye injuries after opening a can of Diet Coke causing the beverage to spray her face and enter both eyes. The can and the beverage were designed and manufactured by defendant-Coke and sold by defendant-Kroger. Defendant-Ball manufactured the can. The packaging did not list any warning the beverage might exit the can at a high velocity upon opening, or the beverage could pose potentially harmful results if it were to come into contact with a person�s eyes. Plaintiff purchased a 12-pack of Diet Coke and put it in her garage to keep cool. As she began to open one of the cans, she heard a loud noise and was instantaneously sprayed in the face with the beverage, which entered her eyes and she was unable to open her eyelids. Her husband drove her to the emergency room. A doctor found multiple abrasions on both of plaintiff�s eyes. She was later referred to an ophthalmologist, who diagnosed plaintiff�s condition as SLK coupled with severe dry eye. The court concluded plaintiff offered evidence her injuries could very well have been proximately caused by her exposure to the beverage, which is "a moderately strong acid." The court also concluded the beverage could not be considered a "simple" product and given this fact, the dangerous quality of the product could not be within the realm of common knowledge so as to say the dangers were open and obvious. Reversed.