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Escola v. Coca-Cola Bottling Case Brief

Summary of Escola v. Coca-Cola Bottling [1953] 

Relevant Facts: Pl Escola, was a waitress in a restaurant.  Df’s driver delivered several cases of Coca Cola to the restaurant, placing them on the floor.  Immediately before the accident, Pl picked up the top case and set it upon a near by ice cream cabinet in front of the refrigerator.  She started taking out the bottles one by one and put them inside the refrigerator.  After she had placed three inside and had moved the fourth bottle about 18 inches it exploded in her hand.  It broke into two jagged pieces which severed blood vessels, cut nerves and muscles of her hand.  It made a loud popping sound and dispersed glass and soda outward.  The top portion of the bottle, w/ the cap remained in her hand, and the lower portion fell to the floor. Df’s driver testified seeing other bottles of Coca Cola explode in the past, and had found broken bottles in the warehouse of unknown cause.

Legal Issue(s): Whether the R. I. L. applies as an inference of df’s negligence for the defective bottle at the time it was delivered?

Court’s Holding: Yes

Procedure: Jury verdict for the Pl; Affirmed.

Law or Rule(s): Where the Df had exclusive control over the item causing injury and the accident is of such a nature that it ordinarily would not occur in the absence of df’s negligence R.I.L.

Court Rationale: Pl must prove the condition of the bottle did not change after it left df’s possession.  Evidence supports inference that the bottle was not damaged after delivery to the restaurant by df.  The bottle was charged with gas under pressure by the df.  There is an industry wide standard for testing the bottles.  There is a duty on the bottler to discover defects through appropriate tests.  When a df produces evidence to rebut the inference of negligence under RIL it is ordinarily a question of fact for the jury to determine whether the inference has been dispelled.

TRAYNOR- A manuf. Incurs absolute liability when an article that he has placed on the market, knowing that it is to be used w/o inspection, proves to have a defect that causes injury.  It is in the public interest to discourage the marketing of products having defects which are menacing.  If such products find their way into the market, it is the responsibility of the manuf., even if there is not a showing of negligence. Consumers no longer approach products warily but accept them on faith, relying on the reputation of the manufacturer, who has sought to justify that faith by increasingly high standards of inspection, and a readiness to make good on defective products by way of replacements and refunds.

Plaintiff’s Argument: The exploding bottle would not ordinarily occur without a defect in the bottle or negligence by the manufacturer of the bottle.

Defendant’s Argument: The bottle was out of the exclusive care and custody of the df when the injury occurred.

 



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