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Warning Dilution

Penalty for frivolous warning labels
  (+9, -2)
(+9, -2)
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In the US and other parts of the world, liability law creates huge incentives to prominently warn of every potential danger but no disincentive from warning about absurdly unlikely risks. The result is that almost all human activity is warned against and there is no way for the average person to know which warnings to take seriously and which can be ignored. This may actually result in more injuries overall.

Almost the entire surface area of modern ladders, for example, urges you to not to use the ladder for any purpose whatsoever, lest you and your entire family suffer premature, agonizing death. Some of this should already be obvious to anyone considering using a ladder ("If you fall from this ladder, you may be injured" or "If you touch high voltage wires, it will hurt quite a bit"). Most of the text, however, might have been written by special teams recruited from wards for unlikely phobics ("Do not climb into snake pits." "Do not use ladder to poke eye of Grizzly or Polar bears." "Do not shout unpopular statements from top of ladder." Etc.). If a particular ladder really had some non-obvious limitation that actually could make it unusually dangerous, there'd be no way to tell anyone anymore. Ladder users are now preselected to be immune from anything printed on a label.

The solution is to implement the reverse of current liability laws. Congress or the courts should recognize a new tort, "warning dilution" which is committed by anyone who cautions against risks that don't exist in the real world. You can sue for warning dilution if you disregard a warning label or sign and don't suffer any actual harm as a result.

Manufacturers could protect themselves against warning dilution suits either by stopping the frivolous warnings or, alternatively, by making their products more dangerous. Ladders, for example, could have steps coated with Teflon. Telephone cords could come with pictorial instructions for tying hangman's knots. The possibilities are limitless.

mab, Oct 09 2002

Warnings for various items, in Engrish http://www.engrish....tegory=Instructions
Killer, just killer: check out the gun, and the super laser yo-yo [Wes, Oct 09 2002, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Darwin Appliances http://www.halfbake...Darwin_20Appliances
One at a time, just one at a time. .... [8th of 7, Oct 10 2002, last modified Oct 04 2004]

(?) M-LAW's Wacky Warning Labels http://www.mlaw.org/wwl/index.html
Competition to find redundant or rediculous warnings. [st3f, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]


       I think you deserve a croissant just for coming up with the word "penality".
DrCurry, Oct 09 2002

       Maybe the warnings could be printed in progressively smaller typefaces ?   

       This could result in a "Universal Standard Warning" to be affixed to all products, with the more relevant sections printed in large type ("DO NOT use this hairdryer in the bath or shower" or "Don't cross the streams") and the rest in tiny writing you need a microscope to read ("WARNING: do not use this blender as an impromptu substitute for a car jack when changing a flat tyre, as injury may result.").   

       In the EU, the Eurocrats have, with startling prescience, excluded firearms from the provisions of the Machinery Directive, which requres that all equipment be safe to use. Apparently for some reason it is considered technically unfeasable to make a device that expels a metal object at supersonic velocities entirely "safe" to use .......   

       "Warning: this projectile weapon may cause serious injury if used correctly".   

       "Warning: Bayonet has sharp edges !"   

       "Warning: Do not drive over land mines. Severe tyre damage may result."
8th of 7, Oct 09 2002

       Warning signs are not a bad thing per se, its the ones that warn about blatently obvious danger and are there just to cover any liability.   

       A different solution could be to display a single large sign on a billboard stating something like:   

       "S*@t Happens..."
<smaller text> "Especially to the gormless" </smaller text>

       This could adequately cover the excess 'warnings' required by liability laws (there still meay be a need to warn for non-obvious danger).
Jinbish, Oct 09 2002

       "I'm sorry, I didn't hear what you said while I was speaking to you."
reensure, Oct 09 2002

       #include <std_disclaimer.h>
"Not for use by idiots."

       That should replace about 98% of all warning messages.
BigBrother, Oct 09 2002

       Fishbone. This would result in the courts being clogged up with vexatious lawsuits raised by everybody who ever uses an item correctly. The only people who could possibly benefit from this are the lawyers... fishbone withdrawn, croissant.
calum, Oct 09 2002

       There's no such thing as a frivilous warning label. If it seems like a stupid or obvious danger, you're getting the result of someone else's stupidity.   

       In my mind, if you set your ladder in mud, climb to the top and fall over, you shouldn't be allowed to sue the ladder manufacturer - you should be forbidden from using ladders.
phoenix, Oct 09 2002

       //Not for use by idiots// That would also preclude about 98% of the population, as we are all idiots sometimes. (Obviously the other 2% compose 1/2B regulars, before I'm flamed to a crisp) I personally have fallen off a ladder whilst trying to disprove Newton's first law, I'm very glad the cracked ribs I suffered weren't supplemented with the indignity of having my Ladder Users Licence revoked. As Calum noted, the only beneficiaries of increased litigation are lawyers.   


       If a law were passed making it an offence to try to place responsibility for your own actions on a second party.   

       No, you'd still need a lawyer, but after a while it might make people think twice about suing manufacturers for their own stupidity.
egbert, Oct 09 2002

       Alternatively, if every jurisdiction were to ban contingency fees and stop awarding punitive damages, the number of lawsuits may just fall.
calum, Oct 09 2002

       See link for gun safety in Engrish. And boy, those super laser yo-yo's can sure be dangerous.
Wes, Oct 09 2002

       "There's no such thing as a frivilous warning label. If it seems like a stupid or obvious danger, you're getting the result of someone else's stupidity." Yes, and unfortunately, the courts seem to be coddling the cretins. The problem with this idea is that the manufacturer risks being sued regardless of whether the warning is there or not. Under this law, McDonald's could be sued for the ring of "HOT!" warnings that circle their coffee cups now, even though they got sued for not having them there in the first place. Maybe combine 8th's and egbert's anno's: create and distribute a Universal product warning book, and, rather than affixing it to every product on the market, make it a punishable offence to attempt to sue a manufacturer for injury due to something posted in said book. Could include things such as "Lasers are not to be pointed directly into eyes unless expressly designed to be so. Impaired vision may result." "Warning: bludgeoning oneself or others repeatedly with objects weighing more than .5lbs may result in injury." "Hot beverages are, in fact, hot."
nick_n_uit, Oct 09 2002

       Common sense classes, with basic material such as:
'Coffee is hot'
'metal conducts electricity'
'gravity exists, and can hurt you'
BinaryCookies, Oct 09 2002

       [nick_n_uit]: Actually, the fact that someone really was injured by McDonald's unusually dangerous coffee would be a good defense under my proposal. In fact, to be safe, they have two options: serve coffee at a lower, more normal temperature, or, if they want to keep the warning labels, serve it so hot that their customers tend to injure themselves with it. But they have to pick one or the other.
mab, Oct 09 2002

       On my room thermostat there is the following text, "Adjust the thermostat for room temperature by turning the themostat dial. (example: '20 degrees' on the dial = 20 degrees in the room)".
FarmerJohn, Oct 10 2002

       Silly [farmer], that's to prevent you from turning it up 200 degrees.
blissmiss, Oct 10 2002

       Maybe we should just round up all the stupid people, and cull them ?
8th of 7, Oct 10 2002

       [8th], Do you mean stupid people (like those who fall off ladders and cut themselves on tins of dogfood), or stupid people who try to blame other people for the consequences of their stupidity?
egbert, Oct 10 2002

       Either and/or both.   

       Put a big sign saying "Free money !" in the middle of a field. Shoot everone who shows up and asks for some. Or give them a Darwin Appliance as a consolation prize (link).
8th of 7, Oct 10 2002

       No, don't shoot them. Have one of them forest fire fighting helicopters rain scalding hot coffee on them. Vigilante justice!
Wes, Oct 10 2002

       Or put a sign up next to a cliff: "Jumping over edge may result in successful lawsuit".   

       (After Larson - Visions of Stupid People peering into washing machine marked "FREE MUNNY-->", 8th/7 lurking around corner, "oh please, oh please")   

       BTW, 8th, as well as being accident prone I also have four children (three accidental!) and two cats. Could I BE any more annoying?
egbert, Oct 10 2002


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