Network Firm News

Thursday, September 14, 2006


When a South African winery sued glass bottle manufacturer Owen-Illinois in a federal court in Ohio (O-I’s home state) claiming that its sparkling wine didn’t sparkle, O-I turned to the oenophiles south of Napa Valley at San Francisco-based Schiff Hardin nee Morgenstein & Jubelirer, for clarification (get it?).

The winery alleged that a South African glass maker, relying on O-I’s advice, treated its bottles in such a way as to interfere with fermentation and riddling (sounds like a case for Batman – double pun there, in case you're counting; okay, triple). Some $25 million in damages allegedly “popped” up.

M&J’s defense included a comprehensive technical and scientific dissertation on wine and champagne-making techniques (and, no doubt, many late nights working out demonstratives). The team even had to travel to South Africa to “preserve evidence”.

Several Daubert motions later (I imagine after much swilling and spitting by candidate experts), as well as presentations on international technology sharing agreements, toxic substance claims and glass bottle manufacturing methods, the case came down to a motion for summary judgment on several grounds, the winning one coming only three weeks before trial, dismissing the case on the ground that the statute of limitations on the winery’s claim had, like the wine's flavor, run.

M&J’s team consisted of Jim Balich, Rocky Unruh and Kathleen Stimeling, all of whom are already highly regarded for their trial and litigation skills but now also for their knowledge of the minutae of the Méthode Champenoise (i.e., how to make fizz), transfer method champagne, fermentation, maturation, remuage or riddling, dégorgement and dosage as well as waiting around for results.

Now that the case is over, we are hopeful that some of the “preserved evidence” can be distributed around to Network attorneys willing to archive a case or two in the interests of helping our San Francisco friends dispose of now unneeded evidence.

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