Outrageous Lawsuits
The spawning of weird product warnings
How litigation explosion is hurting America

In 1997, Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch (M-LAW) began a contest to expose how frivolous lawsuits have led to a new cultural phenomenon: weird product warning labels.

You have probably heard about Stella Liebeck, 81, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, who spilled coffee on herself and successfully sued McDonald’s instead of accepting their $20,000 offer. In that instance, Stella may have indeed been burned by scalding hot coffee, but since then, there have been many other silly lawsuits involving products that have received far less attention. For example, did you know a man received $50,000 when he sued a small company that makes basketball nets because he claimed the company was responsible when he caught his teeth in a net while dunking a ball?

Companies who make products hear about these outrageous lawsuits, and often decide to add common sense warnings on their product - “just in case.” This year’s list of M-LAW winners are:

#1. Taking first prize was a warning found on a bottle of drain cleaner. The label reads: “If you do not understand, or cannot read, all directions, cautions and warnings, do not use this product”;

#2. Second prize was for a label on a snow sled that advises users: “Beware: sled may develop high speed under certain snow conditions”;

#3. Third place winner was a label on a compact-disc storage rack that warns: “Do not use as a ladder”;

#4. Fourth place went to a warning label on a fishing lure (sporting three steel hooks) which advises that the lure is “Harmful if swallowed”;

#5. Fifth place was for a smoke detector which warns: “Do not use the Silence Feature in emergency situations. It will not extinguish a fire.”

Past weird product warning label winners:
- On a massage chair: “Do not use massage chair without clothing... and never force any body part into the backrest area while the rollers are moving”
- On an electric router made for carpenters: “This product not intended for use as a dental drill”
- A warning label found on a baby stroller cautions the user to “Remove child before folding”
- A prescription of sleeping pills stating, “Warning: May cause drowsiness”
- A sticker on a toilet at a public facility warning: “Recycled flush water unsafe for drinking”
- A snowblower warning: “Do not use snowthrower on roof”
- On a dishwasher: “Do not allow children to play in the dishwasher”
- Unusual warning on a CD player: “Do not use the Ultradisc2000 as a projectile in a catapult.”
- An “Aim-n-Flame” fireplace lighter cautions, “Do not use near fire, flame or sparks”
- A label on a hand-held massager advises consumers not to use “while sleeping or unconscious”
- On a container of underarm deodorant: “Caution: Do not spray in eyes”
- On a cartridge for a laser printer: “Do not eat toner”
- A household iron warns users: “Never iron clothes while they are being worn”
- A label with a hair dryer reads, “Never use hair dryer while sleeping”
- A 13-inch wheel on a wheelbarrow warns: “Not intended for highway use”
- A cardboard car sunshield that keeps sun off the dashboard warns, “Do not drive with sunshield in place”
- On a Bathroom Heater: “This product is not to be used in bathrooms”
- A can of self-defense pepper spray warns users: “May irritate eyes”
- A warning on a pair of shin guards manufactured for bicyclists: “Shin pads cannot protect any part of the body they do not cover”
- A popular manufactured fireplace log warns: “Caution - Risk of Fire”
- A box of birthday cake candles says: “DO NOT use soft wax as ear plugs or for any other function that involves insertion into a body cavity.”

Weird product labels are a sign of our lawsuit-plagued times. In the ‘good old days’, if someone spilled coffee in their lap, they simply called themselves clumsy. Today, people call themselves an attorney. This “sue first, ask questions later” mentality has not only produced weird warning labels, it has increased the cost of products and services families use daily.

M-LAW is a non-profit organization works to increase public awareness of how the explosion in litigation is hurting America, and is dedicated to restoring common sense and personal responsibility to the courts...

The annual “Stella Awards” are named after Stella Liebeck (see above) who inspired the most frivolous successful lawsuits in the United States.

see also   Legal  Section


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