A label on a small tractor that warns, “Danger: Avoid Death,” has been chosen as the nation’s wackiest warning label in an annual contest sponsored by a consumer watchdog group. The Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch (M-LAW) has released its eleventh annual results of “The Wacky Warning Label Contest” featuring the silliest warnings on products. However, the contest itself should come with a more prominent warning about the basis for the contest and the motives of its organizers.
M-LAW began this brilliant campaign as part of its effort to curtail tort recovery for victims of products defects and accidents. The organization is savvy and sophisticated in the use of humor and the media. It knows that these warnings will make it into every major news outlet and be read with glee. However, there is nothing funny about the objectives of the group. With the President leading the effort, there is a continuing effort to cap awards for victims and restrictions on the ability to sue for such defects. In states that pass such “reforms” victims often have trouble finding contingency representation and face obstacles in seeking relief for the deaths and injuries of loved ones.
The other problem is that M-LAW suggests that these warnings are result of litigation. In reality, such warnings are the result of moronic lawyers who add unnecessary labels. Thus, it is not necessary to warn (as in past winners) not to use a toilet brush for “personal hygiene.” Obvious or patent dangers are rarely actionable when they are inevitably inherent in the product like a hammer or a saw.This year’s recipients are excellent examples. There is no case or doctrine that required the inclusion of a warning on a tractor that reads” “Danger: Avoid Death.” Such a label, even if necessary, would offer no legal protection under current doctrine. However, it is clearly not needed and either added as a joke or by a mental incompetent.
Likewise, it is entirely unnecessary to warn people about burning themselves by putting an iron to their chest. Thus, an iron-on T-shirt transfer that warns: “Do not iron while wearing shirt” is completely ridiculous from a legal standpoint.The third place winner — a label on a baby-stroller featuring a small storage pouch that warns, “Do not put child in bag” — is equally absurd. If this was truly needed, any bag would need the same warning. The reason that none other carry the labels is that they are obviously not needed.M-LAW would have the readers believe that this is just the result of the terror experienced by companies in today’s lawsuit crazed world. Yet, with millions of products, it is not surprising to find a handful with foolish warnings, just as it is possible to find foolish instructions. It has nothing to do with litigation.