A Law Career

Warning Labels And Personal Injuries: How A Failure To Warn Can Make A Manufacturer Liable

by Ruby Mckinney

Have you ever picked something up, read the warning label, and wondered, "Why on earth do they need to tell someone this?" It's because a provision of the law known as a "failure to warn," which is an important part of many product liability cases involving personal injuries. If you've been injured while using a commercially sold product, this is what you should know about warning labels and the law.

Manufacturers cannot hide known dangers.

Manufacturers are expected to exercise a certain amount of caution when designing and producing a product. The products they make should be reasonably safe to use as instructed and for their intended purpose. Manufacturers are also expected to warn people if there are certain known and unavoidable dangers that come with using a product. That's why, when you buy a package of steak knives, they may have the warning "These knives are sharp" on the package somewhere. 

Hiding the known dangers of a product is another issue that falls under the "failure to warn" provision of the law. For example, if you buy a bottle of ibuprofen at the drug store, it has a list of warnings on the box, on the insert inside the package, and on the bottle. Like a box of sharp knives, the drug presents some danger to users even when used properly. The manufacturer knows this and isn't trying to hide the information.

However, not every manufacturer does the same. A tremendous number of lawsuits involving medications involve the failure to warn consumers of side effects that the drug companies hid from patients and doctors. For example, the drug Risperdal was marketed to elderly patients despite the fact that the drug's maker knew that it could increase the risk of death for elderly patients. The company also knew that the drug caused gynecomastia, the development of male breasts, but kept the information off the drug's label so it didn't lose out in sales.

Manufacturers must anticipate foreseeable dangers.

Manufacturers are also expected to warn consumers about reasonably foreseeable dangers. Those often come in the form of someone using the product in a way that's not recommended but (perhaps) easily anticipated. For example, a bag of air used as packing material warns users, "Do not use this product as a toy, pillow, or flotation device." All of those are probably reasonably foreseeable uses by consumers who aren't particularly safety-minded. While some warnings may seem comic to many users, they play an important role in making sure that the general population is kept safe from dangers associated with what is sometimes called "predictable misuse."

Other common foreseeable misuses include things like someone using an iron to try to quickly get a wrinkle out of a shirt that they're still wearing or rocking a vending machine to dislodge an item that's stuck. While those types of actions might represent poor judgment, they're the sort of mistakes that many people make.

If you were injured by a product that didn't contain adequate warnings about its dangers, contact an attorney in your area for assistance. Contact a lawyer, such as Richard M Altman, for more information.