Product liability:What is warning failure?

Uaatjo Kaurimuje

The failure to warn in product liability refers to a situation in which a manufacturer fails to sufficiently inform consumers about potential risks associated with the use of their product.

This failure may manifest as failure to warn, inadequate warning, or failure to provide adequate instructions.

However, there are exceptions to this rule that could hinder a product liability case based on the failure to warn.

Exceptions include scenarios such as when:

  • • the product is purchased by an employer for use in a workshop, implying that instructions were provided to the employer,
  • • the product is sold as a component with instructions provided, but harm occurs due to the end product’s use,
  • • the product is intended for use under the supervision of experts,
  • • the consumer is under the influence of alcohol or non-prescribed medication while using the product and
  • when manufacturers are not held liable for risks that are obvious or should have been known to the user given the product’s characteristics.

Reasonable foreseeability is a key factor, where manufacturers are expected to anticipate potential risks associated with the product’s use and environment.

The warning provided should be conspicuous and comprehensible to an average user, conveying the nature and extent of the danger.

For instance, in a case where a child ingested furniture polish due to inadequate warning, the defendants argued they were only liable for injuries occurring during intended use.

Similarly, in an incident involving a third-degree burn from hot coffee, the defendant was held negligent for not adequately warning about the coffee’s temperature despite prior complaints.

Another example involves a mother sustaining injuries while assisting her son who opened a soda bottle, highlighting the duty of care owed by the shopkeeper who failed to follow instructions to keep the product out of children’s reach.

In summary, manufacturers have a responsibility to provide clear warnings and instructions, foresee potential risks and ensure their products are safe for intended use.

Failure to do so can result in liability for injuries caused by foreseeable hazards.

  • Uaatjo Kaurimuje is a consumer protection advocate and freelance writer. The views and opinions expressed here are her own.

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