David S. Jasmer
Setting the Standard in Personal Injury
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Why manufacturers put ridiculous warnings on Illinois products

You've probably seen warning labels on Chicago products that seemed obvious or utterly foolish. If you search online for "dumb warning labels," you'll come up with list after list of product instructions and labels that are funny. Manufacturers aren't trying to make you chuckle.

Warning someone not to use a hair dryer while sleeping seems ridiculous. What manufacturers are really doing is protecting themselves from product liability claims. They don't want to be accused of failing to warn consumers about the risks of using a product, even in bizarre ways, like mistaking a Dremel rotary hand tool for a dentist's drill.

Laws protect consumers injured by defective products. Sometimes, a fault is built into a product's design or occurs in the manufacturing or distribution process. In some cases, the absence of clear instructions and warnings can be blamed for harm.

Manufacturers can be ordered to pay damages when they don't relay enough information about inconspicuous product dangers. Instructions must be thorough and take "foreseeable" product uses into consideration. Rather than be guilty of omitting something, companies now over-inform customers, just in case people don't realize sleeping aids make you tired or Apple iPod shuffles are inedible!

The look or placement of a label can be scrutinized. That's why so many warning stickers are vividly colored and boldly displayed. Added symbols and warnings in multiple languages help reduce chances of misinterpretation, another point that can be challenged in court.

Warnings are necessary only when a product has a known potential for harm. Consumers also must be warned about hidden dangers when the product is used in a reasonable way. Manufacturers overcompensate by flooding the market with warnings, whether or not consumers need them.

Having too much information can seem excessive, but it's better than keeping innocent Illinois consumers in the dark. Strong, positive manufacturer reactions are signs product liability laws are working.

Source: FindLaw, "Defects in Warnings" Oct. 13, 2014

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