We are the Ultimate Guide to Meaningful and Healthy Travel with Hands-On Travel Advice!

Monday, December 25, 2023

Bubbles Gone Bad: Celebrity Cruises Faces Unusual Lawsuit Over Champagne Cork Incident

Cruise lines are no strangers to legal battles, often grappling with personal injury lawsuits stemming from slip-and-fall accidents and other mishaps. However, Celebrity Cruises finds itself in the midst of an exceptionally unique lawsuit – one involving a champagne cork to the eye. Filed in the US Federal District Court on December 20, 2023, by former guest Robert Marchetta, the lawsuit seeks $75,000 in compensation for damages resulting from the incident. This unexpected case sheds light on the potential dangers lurking behind the festive pop of a champagne bottle.

The Champagne Cork Catastrophe:

According to reports, the alleged incident occurred on February 2, 2023, aboard the Celebrity Edge, a 130,818-gross-ton cruise ship completing an 11-night Southern Caribbean itinerary. Marchetta claims that a champagne cork, erupting from a "wire cage" on board, struck his right eye, causing what he describes as "serious and permanent" injuries. The lawsuit outlines damages including pain, mental and emotional distress, medical expenses, physical handicap, and a loss of the ability to enjoy life.

Celebrity Cruises' Negligence:

Marchetta's lawsuit points the finger at Celebrity Cruises, alleging negligence in handling and storing champagne on board. The crux of the matter is the cruise line's supposed failure to exercise reasonable care in both storage and transportation, thereby increasing the risk of accidents during the uncorking process. Given the potential velocity of a champagne cork – up to 30 miles per hour – the injury sustained by Marchetta underscores the importance of proper precautions.

Unanswered Questions:

The details surrounding the incident remain shrouded in mystery. The lawsuit does not provide information on how the champagne cork mishap occurred, whether Marchetta sought immediate medical attention on board, or the identity of the individual responsible for uncorking the bottle. The ambiguity raises questions about the circumstances leading to this unusual injury and whether it could have been prevented.

Champagne Bottles and Safety:

The image of a celebratory champagne cork popping is a familiar one, but typically associated with joyous occasions rather than potential hazards. While champagne bottles do not spontaneously "explode," mishandling, defects in the bottle or cork, and extreme temperatures can contribute to accidents. The pressure within a champagne bottle can be significant due to its carbonation, making it crucial to handle and open bottles with care. Marchetta's reference to the cork exploding through a "wire cage" adds another layer of complexity, leaving room for speculation about the circumstances surrounding the incident.

Navigating the Bubbly Perils: Champagne Cork Hazards and Eye Safety

Cork eye injuries are an often overlooked and substantial threat to ocular health. The goal is to ensure that you don't begin the new year on the operating table of an eye surgeon.

Permanent Blindness:

This warning might at first sound overly cautious, but the American Academy of Ophthalmology has a public safety campaign, "Uncork with Care," that gives practical tips for safely uncorking fizz bottles due to the "serious, potentially blinding eye injuries" that occur every year. The pressure in a 750 ml bottle of champagne or sparkling wine is about three times that of a standard car tire, with the potential to launch a cork up to 13 m at speeds of up to 80 km/h. A cork can travel from bottle to eye in less than 0.05 seconds, making the blinking reflex ineffective. A cork hitting an eye can cause permanent blindness, retinal detachment, and lens dislocation, among other conditions.

A Historical Perspective:

In May 2022, cyclist Biniam Girmay opened a bottle of prosecco on the winners' podium to celebrate his win at the Giro d'Italia. The cork hit his eye, causing an anterior chamber hemorrhage, and he had to withdraw from the next stage of the competition. A retrospective review published in 2005 analyzed cases of severe eye injuries resulting from bottles containing pressurized drinks in the United States, Hungary, and Mexico. Champagne bottle corks were responsible for 20% of the eye injuries related to bottle tops in the US, 71% in Hungary, and 0% in Mexico.

Champagne Bottles and Safety Measures:

Champagne bottles should be handled carefully and opened gently to minimize the risk of an explosive runaway cork. The British Medical Journal highlights the potential severity of champagne cork injuries, citing cases of permanent blindness and various ocular conditions resulting from such incidents. The pressure within a champagne bottle can be extreme, and if mishandled, the bottle could burst, causing significant harm.

Awareness and Prevention Measures Needed:

A 2009 review of 34 cases of eye injuries caused by bottle corks and caps from sparkling wine bottles in Italy showed that these seemingly innocuous objects can cause substantial harm to the eye, resulting in various degrees of visual impairment and clinical outcomes such as perforation, trauma, and long-term complications. This study shed light on the range of consequences that can result from cork-related eye injuries, underscoring the need for awareness and prevention measures.

Safety Tips and Preventive Measures:

To mitigate ophthalmic risks during toasts, suggestions from the American Academy of Ophthalmology are crucial:

  • Chill the bottle before opening: Pressure reduces as the bottle cools, and as a result, cork velocity decreases. Avoid shaking the bottle before opening for the same reason.
  • Face the bottle away from others and yourself at a 45° angle before opening.
  • Remove the wire cage carefully from the top of the bottle while pressing down on the cork with the palm of a hand.
  • Place a towel over the top of the bottle and hold the cork firmly.
  • Gently twist the bottle until the cork loosens.
  • Counteract the upward moving force of the cork by pressing down on it.

  1. While this may not have helped the cruise passenger, when opening your own bottle at home or away, some individuals prefer to use cork pullers

Lawsuits on the High Seas:

The cruise industry is no stranger to legal disputes, with various lawsuits emerging regularly. In the same week as Marchetta's filing, ten personal injury lawsuits were lodged against cruise lines in the Southern District of Florida. Five of these were directed at Celebrity Cruises, highlighting a broader pattern of legal challenges faced by the cruise industry. Lawsuits can range from injuries resulting from onboard incidents, such as Marchetta's case, to diverse matters such as trademark disputes, environmental concerns, and violations of maritime law.


As the champagne cork lawsuit against Celebrity Cruises unfolds, it serves as a reminder that even the most unexpected incidents can lead to legal battles for cruise lines. This peculiar case prompts a closer look at safety measures surrounding celebratory traditions on board and the need for cruise operators to ensure the well-being of their guests. The outcome of this lawsuit could potentially set a precedent for how cruise lines approach and address unique incidents that fall outside the realm of traditional personal injury claims.


No comments:

Post a Comment