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Failure to Warn: What You Need to Be Told About a Product’s Dangers

Posted on - Wednesday, December 16, 2015 under Dangerous Drugs & Products

With Christmas just around the corner, the classic movie “A Christmas Story” will be on TV – a lot. You may recall that in the film, young Ralphie desperately wanted a BB gun for Christmas, but was constantly met with a dire warning from almost every grown-up he told about his wish: “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.”

Warnings about the potential dangers of products, whether it be a BB gun or any other product sold to consumers, are part of a manufacturer’s duty to consumers. While many products cause injuries because of defective design or manufacturing, thousands of injuries happen every year because products did not come with sufficient warnings about their dangers or provide other information about how to use and not use the product.

When injuries do occur and lawsuits follow because of a company’s failure to provide adequate warnings or other product safety information, these are often called “failure to warn” or “”marketing defect” cases.

“Failure to Warn”

Almost any product has the potential to cause harm or injury if used incorrectly, but that doesn’t mean that, for example, a pencil maker needs to warn consumers about the dangers of sticking the pencil in your eye.

Under Georgia law, whether a duty to warn exists depends upon:

  • the foreseeability of the use in question
  • the type of danger involved, and
  • the foreseeability of the user’s knowledge of the danger.

Wilson Foods Corp. v. Turner, 218 Ga. App. 74, 75, 460 S.E.2d 532, 534 (1995))

If the manufacturer does have a duty to warn, it may breach its duty by either:

  • failing to adequately warn of the product’s potential risks; or
  • failing to adequately communicate the warning to the user.

Adequacy of Warnings

While failure to read instructions or printed warnings will prevent a plaintiff from recovering on a claim grounded on failure to provide adequate warning of the product’s potential risk, “[f]ailure to read a warning does not bar recovery when the plaintiff is challenging the adequacy of the efforts of the manufacturer or seller to communicate the dangers of the product to the buyer or user.” Id.

Whether a company has “adequately” communicated involves an evaluation of the location and presentation of the warning, including the color, font size, and use of symbols to draw attention to the warning.

Given the detailed analysis of the foregoing factors, “failure to warn” cases are very fact-specific. Proving that a manufacturer breached its duty to warn, and that the claimed injuries were caused by the manufacturer’s beach of that duty, requires a skilled products liability lawyer. At the Parian Law Firm, we have extensive experience in products liability matters, including failure to warn cases.

If you have been injured by a consumer product of any kind, please call us today (770) 727-5550 or fill out an online contact form at www.westgalawyer.com. We look forward to assisting you.