A Texas appeals court has dismissed product liability and negligence claims filed by a woman injured when she was struck twice in the face with a longneck beer bottle during a birthday celebration at a bar known for its violence. Gann v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc., No. 08-11-00017-CV (Tex. App., 8th Dist., El Paso, decided July 25, 2012). Affirming the trial court’s grant of the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, the appeals court determined that the plaintiff “failed to produce more than a scintilla of evidence that the longneck bottle was defectively designed so as to render it unreasonably dangerous and failed to establish that Appellees owned her a legal duty to protect her from the criminal acts of a third person.”  

Specifically, the court found insufficient evidence that the risk of injury from the bottle’s design outweighs its utility despite the plaintiff’s assertions that “beer bottles are used commonly in assaults in the local community, . . . the longneck portion of the bottle is cosmetic and serves no useful purpose . . . and Anheuser-Busch uses stubby glass bottles and plastic bottles as containers for beer.” The court faulted the plaintiff for failing to address whether (i) “manufacturing a stubby glass bottle or plastic bottle is economically feasible,” and (ii) “eliminating the unsafe character of a longneck bottle significantly impairs its usefulness or significantly increases its costs.” The plaintiff also apparently failed to address “what the expectations of the ordinary consumer are.”  

As to the plaintiff’s negligence claims, while the court agreed with her that “it is reasonably foreseeable that a longneck bottle might be used as a weapon, she has failed to show why the general principle that no person has a legal duty to protect another from the criminal acts of a third person is inapplicable in this case.”