Fly In The Bottle
Man wins $340,000 in bottled fly lawsuit
A Windsor hairstylist who suffered "recognizable psychological injury" after discovering a dead fly in a bottle of Culligan water has been awarded more than $340,000 in damages.
Peter J Moore,
the private investigator hired by the lawyers of Martin Mustapha to film and investigate the
Culligan Water Plant where it was alleged that the fly could have entered the bottle. Peter Moore was allowed
access and monitored by the respondents legal team, while Moore filmed all areas of the plant, diagramed and located
an area within the filling process that it was possible that insect entry could be gained. Moore also observed a
common fly in the distilling area along with electronic bug zappers. Moore testified in court by providing a
commentary of the filming and photographs. He also determined that there were approximately seven areas where
insects could enter the filling process room. Moore was heavily cross-examined and the plaintiff’s victory was
picked up by media all over the US, Canada and other areas of the world. It was unique to Canada according to
Windsor lawyer, Pat Ducharme.
Waddah (Martin) Mustapha, who operates two outlets of Martin's Coiffure and Spa at the Radisson Hotel and Casino Windsor, claimed "nervous shock, emotional distress and resulting anxiety, depression and physical and psychological conditions" arising from a breach of contract with Culligan.
"It's long overdue," Mustapha said of the settlement.
On Nov. 21, 2001 Mustapha and his wife Lynn, who was seven months pregnant, were preparing a new bottle of Culligan water to put in their dispenser when she saw something dark in the bottle. Both looked closely and saw legs and wings and realized it was a dead fly.
Lynn Mustapha vomited immediately and Martin vomited later in the evening.
Justice John Brockenshire heard that after discovering the fly Mustapha "could not get the fly in the bottle out of his mind."
Mustapha told court he would have nightmares about falling into a ditch face down in water and he could not sleep more than four hours a night.
LOST SENSE OF HUMOUR
He also testified that he lost his sense of humour and became argumentative and edgy.
Mustapha did not see a doctor until January 2002 and told the doctor that his salon clients were "asking what was wrong with him and whether he was OK."
The doctor prescribed anti-depressants to help him relax and sleep.
He was also prescribed stool softeners for constipation which Mustapha attributed to the fact that he used to drink eight glasses of water a day and now drank none.
Since the incident, Mustapha said he was unable to get the image of the fly out of his mind, and often pictured flies walking on animal feces or rotten food and then being in his bottled water.
Prior to the fly incident Mustapha would shower daily, singing while doing so.
Afterward Mustapha would stand in the bathroom contemplating whether to shower or not and would often just get dressed and leave or wipe a cloth under his arms before applying deodorant.
Following therapy Mustapha was able to stick his head under the water so it would not touch his face and later had therapy where he would stand in the dry shower in a bathing suit.
After the incident Mustapha began drinking coffee made with only warm milk and instant coffee but after therapy was able to drink coffee made in the traditional manner.
Mustapha was unable to resume drinking water by itself.
Mustapha's lawyer Pat Ducharme said the case is unique in Canada.
"I found precedence that had to do with people who consumed elements but never a case where someone had seen something in a bottle and developed a severe depression," said Ducharme.
He said the case was successful because of the number of doctors who examined Mustapha.
"All of them came to the same conclusion that he was suffering from a severe depression because of seeing the fly in the bottle," said Ducharme.
Another contributing factor was that a psychiatrist hired by Culligan examined Mustapha for 10 minutes and deemed his claims bogus, Ducharme said, an assertion that Brockenshire rejected.
Culligan's water distributed in Windsor comes from a plant in Woodstock.
The company testified that it has extensive filtering and purification systems but that flies could enter the so-called "clean room" and enter a bottle before or during its filling.
"I am prepared to accept that the odds against this happening are very high," Brockenshire wrote in his decision.
"However, it should not have happened at all."
Culligan operates water purification companies in more than 90 countries.
The company has 30 days to appeal the decision.
After the incident Mustapha's business at the Radisson, where he spent the majority of his time, suffered greatly.
Mustapha was awarded $80,000 in general damages, past and future special damages of $24,174.58 and past and future economic damages of $237,600.
Windsor Star - Apr. 23, 2005