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Gazlay v. Safeway Corporation et al. Confidential Settlement
When Mr. Gazlay was looking in his refrigerator to find room to place the food he purchased for his football BBQ, he saw an old bottle of this apple juice in the rear. The old bottle had about an inch of juice left in it. He removed the bottle from the refrigerator and his plan was to remove the lid with his fingers and dump the contents into his sink. When he could not get the cap off with his fingers, he used a kitchen knife to pry it loose. As soon as he moved the cap with the knife it literally exploded from the bottle, hit him in his right eye and still had enough velocity to put a dent in the ceiling. The impact with his eye caused a retinal detachment which required lazer surgery. Unfortunately the surgery was only partially successful and he was left with impaired vision and a risk of future retinal detachments. The issue in the case was the defective nature of the apple juice packaging. Plaintiff contended that it was foreseeable that apple juice could ferment in a refrigerator just as grape juice can. The issue was the foreseeability of the introduction of yeast to accomplish that. Plaintiff retained world renowned yeast expert Dr. Pfaaf of University of California at Davis who opined that the yeast from the English muffin “backwash” was sufficient to initiate fermentation and that it was foreseeable. Plaintiff also argued that the “package” or bottle was defective in design because it should have had a twist off cap with threads much like that seen on carbonated beverages given the foreseeability of fermentation. The defense argued that it was unforeseeable that any consumer would keep apple juice in the refrigerator long enough to ferment or that consumers would introduce yeast by drinking directly from the bottle. Plaintiffs packing expert also from UC Davis illustrated that the reason why the press on cap retained so much force generated by the carbon dioxide from fermentation was that the sticky apple juice effectively glued the rubber gasket to the bottle neck. A threaded cap would have allowed the gas to escape while being retained by the threads. After considerable discovery the case settled.