What is Failure to Warn?

more+
less-
more+
less-

Consumer products must be reasonably safe for their intended purpose. However, many products pose serious risks to consumers. When manufacturers are aware of a product’s risks, their duty to advise consumers of these risks arises.

For some inherently dangerous products, the risks associated with the products cannot be removed without diminishing the functionality of the products. For example, useful products such as bleach, gasoline, and paint can be dangerous in certain situations. In those cases, if a manufacturer knows of the risks associated with a product, it has a duty to warn of the danger.

In a failure-to-warn lawsuit, the plaintiff must generally prove four things. First, the plaintiff must show that the manufacturer knew or should have known about the product’s danger. Second, the plaintiff must show that the manufacturer had a duty to warn consumers of the risks associated with the product. Third, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the manufacturer was negligent in failing to warn of these risks. Finally, the plaintiff must prove that he or she was harmed as a result.

A manufacturer must consider common usage and misusage of a product. Typically, a manufacturer will not be held liable for harm resulting from unreasonable misuse of a product. For instance, if a consumer uses a chainsaw to cut someone’s hair, any resulting injuries would not likely be covered by the manufacturer’s duty to warn. However, if a manufacturer is aware of a common misuse of a product, any injuries resulting from this misuse may be compensable under a theory of failure to warn. Children’s toys provide a good example. Manufacturers should be aware that children have the propensity to put small toy pieces in their mouths, even though the toys are not meant for consumption. As such, toy manufacturers may have a duty to warn of risks associated with small, detatchable parts.