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Failure to warn and products liability law

One common argument in products liability litigation is that the manufacturer failed to warn consumers of a product’s potential dangers. Even if the product’s design or manufacturing process was not flawed, it can still be considered legally “defective” if the manufacturer, seller or distributor fails to properly instruct or warn consumers how to use it safely.

When creating warning labels and instructions, manufacturers have two duties: to warn users of hidden dangers, and to instruct them how to avoid dangers and use the product safely. Warnings must be clear, specific, and placed conspicuously, so that the user will easily find it. Think of warning labels we have all seen. They typically are brightly colored, with the warning itself written in bold black lettering.

These warnings are not necessary for every product for sale. Generally, the law requires them when:

  • The product presents a danger
  • The manufacturer is aware of that danger
  • The danger is present even when the product is reasonably used in its intended manner, and
  • The danger is not reasonably obvious

If a plaintiff claims that a warning was necessary and not present, or sufficient, he or she might have a valid claim. On the other hand, consumers are expected to take some responsibility for their own safety. For instance, they cannot ignore a provided warning and expect the manufacturer to pay for any resulting injuries.

Much of this litigation comes down to determining whether instruction manuals and warning labels were sufficiently clear and comprehensive. A products liability defense attorney will be able to help in a company’s defense.

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