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Do Warning Labels Invalidate the Right to Sue?

The makers of the popular magnetic desk toys Buckyballs and Buckycubes have decided to discontinue their product because of what the company calls, baseless and relentless legal badgering from the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission). The company finally caved into long standing CPSC demands partly fueled by videos on YouTube that showed teenagers how to use Buckyballs to mimic a pierced tongue. This dangerous trend bucked explicit warning labels on the product and if the magnetic hold failed, the balls could be swallowed and cause intestinal tearing.

But There’s a Warning Label

Manufacturers have a duty to warn of dangers involved when using their products. Sometimes warning labels can appear ridiculous, like the one on a Batman: The Animated Series costume for kids that says, PARENT: Please exercise caution—mask and chest plate are not protective; cape does not enable wearer to fly. Despite clear cautions, consumers regularly find ways to injure themselves with products and then blame the manufacturer for a failure to warn. Buckyballs and Buckycubes have warning labels on them, which explicitly tell people not to put them into their mouths. Despite these clear warnings, however, the manufacture has decided to take a proactive approach and discontinue the product rather than risk a lawsuit resulting from the misuse of their product.

Manufacturers Don’t Have a Get Out of Jail Free Card

Manufacturers put labels on virtually everything today in the hopes of mitigating their chances of being sued if someone uses their products in ways that are not intended. However, as early as 2002, new rules were imposed on manufacturers requiring them to make reasonable efforts to produce products that are safe. Merely placing warning labels on products that can potentially be used in dangerous ways doesn’t necessarily absolve the manufacturer of liability.

If you were injured in spite of warning labels on the product that you used, then you may be able to recover damages. The question will generally revolve around whether or not the manufacturer made a reasonable effort to produce a safe product and warn of any reasonable dangers.

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Attorneys Dan Jason and Claire Bradley Jason are Military Veterans with a combined 16 years on active duty as Captains and Judge Advocates in the United States Army. Dan served at several military installations, including as Trial Defense Counsel with the Army's 2nd Infantry Division, South Korea; and Group Judge Advocate with the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Command, Ft. Gillem, GA. Claire is an Operation Desert Storm Combat Veteran and served in a host of other installations. After moving into the Reserves, both attained the ranks of Major before their honorable discharges in 2002. Dan and Claire received several awards for their military service.