June 9, 2010 11:43AM

Warning on a Go‐​Cart: ‘This Product Moves When Used’

For the 13th year, Bob Dorigo Jones has compiled the finalists for his annual Wacky Warning Label contest. Another, on a Bluetooth unit: “use of a headset that covers both ears will impair your ability to hear other sounds.” A few years back Jones compiled some of these into an amusing book entitled Remove Child Before Folding (from a stroller warning). For many more examples, check my blog Overlawyered, including warnings on not putting birthday candles in your ears, using your cocktail napkin for navigation, and ironing clothes while you’re wearing them.

Although regulatory agencies account for some of it, the main driving force behind over‐​warning is the “failure to warn” branch of modern product liability law, and the uncertainty it creates through its inability to generate clear guidance on what will and will not be considered adequate warning. Rather than invite suit — with its attendant risk of encountering a paternalistic, sympathy‐​driven or redistributionist judge or jury — most companies would rather include a silly or overbroad warning on the product, even at the cost of numbing consumers to the occasional warnings that really do deserve their attention.