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When Is a Warning Defective?

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By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on October 03, 2014 12:13 PM

Products that are improperly manufactured or designed in an unsafe manner can certainly lead to personal injury lawsuits.

But even a product that is manufactured and designed properly can be subject to a product liability lawsuit for a defective warning, if the manufacturer failed to adequately warn about foreseeable risks of harm posed by use of the product.

So when is a product warning considered defective?

Not All Products Require Warnings

Although many manufacturers include warnings on their products just to be safe, not all products are necessarily required to include warnings. Generally, a warning is required when:

  • A product presents a danger,
  • The manufacturer is aware of the danger,
  • The danger is present when the product is used in its reasonably intended manner, or
  • The danger may not be obvious to the reasonable consumer.

This means that if a product is generally safe when used as intended, manufacturers may not be required to warn about injuries that may be caused from unreasonable use of a product, like drinking two gallons of Coca-Cola a day.

Must Warn of Hidden Dangers

Manufacturers are typically required to warn about any hidden dangers that a product might pose when used as intended.

For example, in 2013 a Massachusetts family was awarded $63 million in a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson for defective warnings on bottles of Children's Motrin. The case involved a 7-year-old girl who lost 90 percent of her skin, went blind, and suffered brain damage after suffering a reaction to the drug. Although the drug's warning label warned consumers to stop taking the medication and contact a healthcare professional in the event of an allergic reaction, Johnson & Johnson was found liable for failing to warn about the known risk of severe side effects.

Must Provide Instructions for Safe Usage

Manufacturers are also generally required to provide instructions for the safe use of their products. Failing to do so may make the manufacturer liable for injuries caused by consumers who fail to use a product as intended.

In one such case, a man who was injured in a golf cart accident sued the manufacturer of the golf cart for failing to warn users not to ride in the back of golf carts. The man was riding in the back of the cart when the driver swerved unexpectedly, throwing him from the cart and causing a severe brain injury. He had earlier settled his lawsuit against the raceway where the accident happened for $5 million.

To learn more about your legal rights for injuries caused by consumer products, check out FindLaw's section on Product Liability.

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