Anheuser-Busch InBev, the owner of Stella Artois, a Belgian beer brand, has recalled roughly one percent of their glass beer bottles sold in North America due to the possibility that glass may have broken off the bottles and ended up in the beer. The recall is voluntary, and no injuries have been reported. According to AB InBev, the risk comes from a packaging flaw that has since been resolved.
“Clearly, there are dangers associated with ingesting a piece of glass,” said Gary Christmas, a personal injury attorney with the law firm of Howell & Christmas in North Charleston, SC. “The most unnerving thing is the fact that the presence of glass would be nearly imperceptible if you weren’t looking for it. As the glass would travel through your system, it puts an individual at serious risk of harm.”
An incident like this would, from a legal standpoint, be a manufacturing defect and any lawsuit filed would be considered product liability. Product liability is a negligence claim, and any negligence claim requires the following:
- A duty of care owed on the part of the defendant;
- A breach of that duty of care;
- That the breach was the actual and proximate cause of the injuries suffered by the plaintiff; and,
- That the plaintiff suffered actual harm.
“Claims of negligence can be very difficult to prove because of the numerous elements and the sometimes-surprising difficulty of proving causation,” said Christmas. “A situation like this would seem to be a clear claim because of the connection and foreseeability between the act of defective manufacturing and the likely injury. However, the company issued a voluntary recall.”
Recalls can be an effective defense to negligence claims but are not a blanket defense. For the existence of a recall to be a defense, the company will have to prove that the plaintiff actually received notice of the recall. The mere existence of the recall and its wide dissemination will not suffice. Recalls can also work in the favor of the plaintiff, by helping prove that the product is defective. However, in both the situations of proving and defending, recalls are only one part of the overall case.
“AB InBev took the proper steps of issuing a recall on these products. Hopefully, no one will be injured by this defect. However, any injury that occurs should be properly litigated, so that each party will have the opportunity to be heard,” said Christmas.