“Does not supply oxygen.” A label on a common dust mask. Submitted by Alex Saenz of Dallas, Texas.
“Warning: Avoid Drowning. Remove safety cover from spa when in use.” A label on an outdoor hot tub cover. Submitted by Archer Leupp of Peshtigo, Wisconsin.
“Warning: The action depicted in this brochure is potentially dangerous. The riders seen are experienced experts or professionals.” Found in a bicycle brochure with pictures of small children riding their bikes. Submitted by John Nevin of Holt, Michigan.
“For gun only, not a functional day planner.” A label on an advertisement for a leather handgun holder designed to look like a daily planner. Submitted by Cheryl Keyes of Westborough, Massachusetts.
“Warning: Pen caps can obstruct breathing. Keep out of mouth.” Instructions that came with a ballpoint pen. Submitted by Mark Stutzmann of Ann Arbor, Michigan.
I started this contest, now sponsored by the Center for America, in 1997 to reveal the extraordinary lengths to which manufacturers who sell products in the United States must go to protect themselves from frivolous lawsuits – and to start a national conversation about the need for reform. Over the years, we’ve found some outrageously common sense warnings, but this year, the pen cap warning does something more than make us laugh, it tells a story.
That warning was found in an instruction manual printed in four different languages: English, Spanish, German and French. Each translation included the same instructions and warnings…except for the warning about swallowing the cap. Why would the warning about keeping the pen cap out of one’s mouth be printed only in English?!
Surely, people in other countries are as prone to swallowing a pen cap as Americans. Yes, but there’s one thing that doesn’t happen in other countries, even the English-speaking countries of England and Australia: lawsuit abuse. The makers of the pen make that painfully obvious in their instructions. If someone in the U.S. swallows a cap from one of their pens, they might be sued, but they won’t be sued anywhere else.
It’s time for America to get serious about ending lawsuit abuse that makes common sense warning labels necessary only in the United States. To learn more about how much lawsuit abuse costs consumers and to see photos of all the products in this year’s wacky warning label contest, click here.