We have all purchased a new consumer product with several labels, stickers, and product inserts containing warnings, disclaimers and oversimplified directions. The warnings can actually be humorous at times as illustrated in the following examples:
· On Sears hair dryer: Do not use while sleeping
· On Marks & Spencer Bread Pudding: Product will be hot
· On Rowenta Iron: Do not iron clothes on body.
· On Nytol (a sleep aid): Warning: May cause drowsiness.
· On a Swedish chainsaw: Do no attempt to stop chainsaw
with your hands.
Obviously, with a little common sense, your average consumer can avoid the injuries that the above statements are attempting to warn against. One can argue that these warnings provide protection to the manufacturers against lawsuits based upon personal injury.
There are many infamous cases where damages were awarded to consumers due to a personal injury resulting from what is claimed to be negligence, failure to warn or a product defect. According to public opinion, some of these lawsuits are frivolous and are causing the decline of our civil justice system. An examination of cases against tobacco companies will provide us with some conflicting information regarding product warning labels. Do they provide manufacturers with adequate protection against this type of lawsuit?
By law, product manufacturers are responsible to give a reasonable warning when the product they manufacture poses a foreseeable risk of injury or harm. Courts use the following factors to consider a manufacturer's duty to warn: "the magnitude or severity of the likely harm, the ...
... middle of paper ...
...n when the manufacturer goes to great length to warn consumers against possible hazards of the product, these warnings are not always sufficient protection from failure-to-warn lawsuits. The manner in which each lawsuit is defended against can also provide a deterrent against such suits in the future.
Mallor, Jane and A. James Barnes, Thomas Bowers, Michael Phillips,
and Arlen Langvardt. Business Law and the Regulatory Environment.
Boston, MA: Irwin McGraw-Hill, 1998.
"Are warnings good enough?" U.S. News & World Report 8 April 1991:
v110 n3 p55
Zegart, Dan. "Breathing fire on tobacco." The Nation 28 August 1995:
v261 n6 p193
Siegfried, Willis A. "Defending Against Failure-to-Warn Lawsuits."
Engineering and the Law 20 August 1998
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