SB_Johnny via Wikimedia Commons

Manufacturers have the responsibility to notify their consumers of possible risk or injury when using their products. For example: a food company should clearly state ingredients and nutritional value in its food packaging; a pharmaceutical firm should include risks involved with taking a particular drug. Lack of sufficient warning labels or even ‘inadequate wording’ may result in a product liability case IF someone was injured. Or in worse case scenarios, killed.

Often, several manufacturers become so fearful of lawsuits that they incorporate ‘silly’ sounding warnings, such as ‘don’t cover head in plastic packaging’. While this may seem funny, it helps protect businesses in case someone uses their product other than for its intended purpose.

Failure to Warn Basics

‘Failure to Warn’ is just one of the three types of product liability claims that can be filed against a manufacturer (the other two being manufacturing defect and design defect). You may need the help of a legal expert to really determine the nature of your case. In terms of product liability, a warning label will be deemed ‘inadequate’ if it:

  • is inconsistent to the product’s purpose
  • does not state the possible risks associated with the product
  • fails to offer satisfactory reasons for its warnings

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has strict regulations when it comes to warning labels on food and drugs. They are the authority when it comes to these necessities; and they have a long, arduous process to maintain quality. Food and drug manufacturers are subject to federal charges aside from product liability lawsuits, if found guilty of inadequate warning labels.

What Manufacturers Consider When Making Labels

There are three (3) basic factors that manufacturers follow when creating their warning labels.

  • They should be easily visible and understandable by the market.
  • They should be complete and precise.
  • They should foresee risks involved with use.

Visible and Understandable. There are cases when the plaintiff would argue that they did not see the warning label. To avoid this scenario, manufacturers ensure that all warning signs are in obvious areas of the product. For instance: coffee served by fast food chains have legible warning labels (CAUTION: I’m hot!) on either sides of the cup; as well as on the cover too. This way, you can see the label no matter how you hold your coffee cup.

Complete and Precise. Vagueness is out of the question. Going back to the coffee example: while the warning ‘CAUTION: I’m Hot!’ is pretty common, most companies have made it more specific to become ‘CAUTION: The drink you are about to consume is very hot; avoid contact with bare skin’. It’s longer – but it also takes away gray areas for misunderstanding.

Foresee Risks. Some consumers are curious and have the tendency to use products other than for its intended purpose. Thus, responsible manufacturers should include possible dangers in their labels in lieu of such situations. Using our coffee example once more, several food companies even mention ‘Sip Slowly. Beverage is Hot!’ to anticipate customers that may gulp down the scorching drink.

Final Word


SB_Johnny via Wikimedia Commons

While good warning labels protect against some lawsuits, there could be some exemptions – particularly if fatalities occurred. These are complicated cases that often cannot be resolved easily unless there’s concrete evidence. If you or a loved one experienced injury due to inadequate warning labels, don’t hesitate to consult your local product liability lawyer. Don’t let irresponsible manufacturers get away – make them accountable for their actions.

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