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Hagan v. Coca-Cola Bottling Co.

First – Read the case of Hagan v. Coca-Cola Bottling Co. on page 13.

 

Facts:   The plaintiffs in this case both drank from a bottle of coke which they believed tasted funny. Upon inspecting the bottle, the plaintiffs saw what appeared to be a used condom in the bottle. Thought it was later determined that the substance was actually mold, both of the Plaintiffs were tested for HIV twice. Each time the HIV tests came back negative. There was no other physical harm to the Plaintiffs.

Both Plaintiffs sued and obtained a jury award of $75,000.00 which the Court reduced to $25,000.00. On appeal, the appellate court ruled that the plaintiffs had not established a legal claim because there had been no actual physical harm.

(Analysis – The first part about the condom explains what is really going on. What is important is that they had reason to be upset and get medical tests. The real question here is can you sue when you really don’t have physical damages. It is a rule of torts we will discuss later.)

Issue: Do plaintiffs who suffer only emotional harm from drinking out of a bottle which they believed to have contained a used condom, have the necessary damages to support cause of action?

 

(Analysis – They got the testing because they thought the substance was a used condom, but they didn’t get HIV.)

Holding: Yes, the Florida Supreme Court states that physical damages are not necessary to support a claim for emotional damages.

(I expanded here because this is a state court a case which would only bind Florida Courts. Take note however, that the Court was actually influenced by a different state court, which we will discuss)

 

Reasoning: The Florida Supreme Court concluded that actual physical harm is not required for these limited facts.   Given the nature of the facts in this case, the Court concluded that it is reasonably foreseeable that a person drinking from a bottle containing a condom would suffer emotional harm. It is the particularly loathsome nature of the object that makes such harm foreseeable.

(You can use this case to determine whether a particular set of facts would result in liability in Florida. Though you normally need a physical harm to support a case for negligence, some times there are exceptions. We now know that in Florida if you drink a coke with a condom in it, you don’t have to prove you got sick. The emotional harm is enough. If you drink out of a coke with something different in it that is equally loathsome, this case may support an argument that you don’t need a physical harm.)

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Category: Sample Questions