It's hard to find a product these days that doesn't come with a warning or caution. The Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch (mlaw.org) keeps tabs on these warnings and even bestows awards on the wilder ones. This year's grand prize went to a warning on an electric heat gun and paint remover that produces temperatures of 1,000 degrees: "Do not use this tool as a hair dryer."
Other M-LAW winners from this and previous years:
- A cocktail napkin with a nautical map of waterways around Hilton Head, S.C., bears the warning: "CAUTION: Not to be used for navigation."
- A warning label on a bottle of dried bobcat urine (for keeping rodents and other pests away from garden plants) says: "Not for human consumption."
- The label on a baby stroller: "Remove child before folding."
- A brass fishing lure with a three-pronged hook comes with the warning: "Harmful if swallowed."
- A popular scooter for children cautions: "This product moves when used."
- A flushable toilet brush warns: "Do not use for personal hygiene."
- A label on a hair dryer reads: "Never use hair dryer while sleeping."
- A warning on an electric drill made for carpenters cautions: "This product not intended for use as a dental drill."
- The label on a bottle of drain cleaner says: "If you do not understand, or cannot read, all directions, cautions and warnings, do not use this product."
- A smoke detector warns: "Do not use the Silence Feature in emergency situations. It will not extinguish a fire."
- A label on a handheld massager advises consumers not to use "while sleeping or unconscious."
- A cartridge for a laser printer warns: "Do not eat toner."
- A can of self-defense pepper spray advises: "May irritate eyes."
- A warning on shin guards manufactured for cyclists says: "Shin pads cannot protect any part of the body they do not cover."
- Other warnings include: "Do not use snowthrower on roof"; "Do not allow children to play in the dishwasher"; "Do not drive with sunshield in place"; and "Never iron clothes while they are being worn."
It is easy to laugh at such goofy warnings, but it's a mistake to think that they're dreamed up by goofy people. They're written by business people who can no longer predict what the law expects or requires of them. These warnings are another measure of how far plaintiff lawyers have gone in dreaming up frivolous pretexts for lawsuits.
No matter how irresponsible people might be in misusing a product, if they are injured in the process, they can just about always find a lawyer and a judge who'll recognize moonbeam theories of liability.
The lunacy is not in the warnings listed above but in the epidemic of abusive lawsuits that drives otherwise reasonable people to issue them.