America’s Wackiest Warning Labels Selected In 15th Annual Contest

by bobdorigojones on May 22, 2012

in Uncategorized

The internationally recognized Wacky Warning Labels™ Contest, now in its 15th year, has just announced the Top Five finalists.   They are:

An electric razor for men that warns “Never use while sleeping.” Sent in by Dave Woehrer, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

A 7-inch decorative globe that comes with the warning: “These globes should not be referred to for navigation.”  Sent in by Kelly Watson, Winona, Texas

A “Laptop Steering Wheel Desk” that cautions: “Never use this product while driving.”  Sent in by Anne Readett,  Okemos, Michigan.

A Neck Pillow made for children that warns: “Keep product away from infants and children.”  Sent in by Noelle McDonald, San Jose, California.

An electric skillet that warns:  “Caution: griddle surface may be hot during and after cooking.”  Sent in by Jason Ellis, Fowlerville, Michigan.

I started this contest, now sponsored by the Center for America 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.

In the days and weeks ahead, that conversation will intensify as word of the latest wacky warning labels spreads, and we will be talking about these labels on radio shows, on television and in various publications, blogs and websites.  One thing people have said since the first year we did this is that these warnings are so crazy they don’t know whether to laugh or cry.  I agree completely.  However, there is something new that we’ve been hearing lately that I would like to focus on this year.

Now, more and more people aren’t laughing about the warnings…they’re becoming so alarmed by warning labels that they’re not using the products they bought.

Here’s an example.  One woman told me her mother bought several heating pads and later returned all of them to the store because each one warned: “Caution, Risk of fire.”  She was genuinely concerned that her house might burn down because the heating pads would ignite a fire.  Silly? Perhaps, but it happens more often than we may think.  We also hear more serious stories from people who haven’t used medicine prescribed by their doctor because of alarming warnings on the packaging.

In too many costly instances nowadays, consumers are choosing to avoid potential risk despite the fact that the products they purchased could make life better and safer.

That is a travesty, and it can be traced directly to the climate of fear that our courts have fostered by refusing to dismiss frivolous lawsuits in too many cases.  There are now so many costly lawsuits in the U.S. that the Pacific Research Institute has calculated that Americans would save $589 billion every year if our tort costs were simply comparable in size with other industrialized countries.

It’s time for America to get serious about ending lawsuit abuse that makes common sense warning labels necessary.  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.

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May 22, 2012 at 12:36 pm
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May 30, 2012 at 2:07 pm

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

bb May 28, 2012 at 6:25 pm

The comparison with other civilized countries is little more complicated. The courts in USA have also regulatory function. The courts in other countries have no such function, instead they have more regulations and regulation institutions.

Other countries use regulation to decide up front what is safe enough and what is not. USA uses courts to find that after the fact. If you would remove regulatory function from the courts, you would have to add on regulations.

I doubt that is currently possible. Not with current “anything governmental is bad” political climate.

ohwilleke June 1, 2012 at 8:19 pm

“We also hear more serious stories from people who haven’t used medicine prescribed by their doctor because of alarming warnings on the packaging.”

It isn’t uncommon for people to have more than one doctor for different purposes (e.g. a GP and a psychiatrist), and to use more than one pharmacist while shopping around for the best deals. Often those warnings catch potentially deadly drug conflicts that wouldn’t be caught any other way.

bobdorigojones June 1, 2012 at 9:49 pm

It’s a Catch-22, ohwilleke. Striking a balance between informing and alarming customers has been tough for pharmaceutical companies because of the constant threat of lawsuits. The FDA actually spends a lot of time shortening many manufacturer-suggested warnings because they are concerned that information overload discourages people from reading the labels and that they’re missing information they need. On the flip side, companies are concerned that if they don’t have a zillion warnings covering every remote possibility, that they’ll be sued and have to settle meritless cases because so many judges don’t follow the law. End result: consumers pay in both higher costs and lost opportunities to use helpful medicine.

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