If you own a chainsaw, the odds are good that you’ll find a somewhat obvious warning right on the side of it.

An illustration of a hand with disconnected digits provides a visual reminder of what could happen if you ignore the printed warning, which reads, “Do not hold the wrong end.”

Is that a silly warning?

Maybe. However, it just might be legally necessary to protect the chainsaw’s manufacturer from ending up in a defective warning lawsuit.

Many items available are pretty safe when used as intended. Some items (like chainsaws), however, are never going to really be safe — even when used as directed. In cases like that, manufacturers are under a legal obligation to give consumers fair warning about the dangers that a product poses to their health and safety.

When manufacturers assess their responsibility for putting a warning label on an item, they have to ask themselves two basic questions:

  1. What hidden dangers could this product hold for the average consumer?
  2. What do consumers need to know about this product in order to use it as safely as possible?

Warnings are generally not required when they are so obvious that any reasonable consumer can spot them.

Unfortunately, that issue is often the focus of hotly contested product liability cases when something goes wrong and someone gets hurt. One jury may agree that a danger is clear to anybody (like “knives are sharp” or “peanuts contain nut products”), while another jury may see that same danger as relatively hidden.

It’s often cheaper, and simpler, to warn consumers about things that many may find obvious than it is to defend a defective product lawsuit. Sometimes that abundance of caution leads to some pretty comic outcomes when it comes to product labels. Other times, that caution may actually prevent a serious accident.

Dangerous and defective products are no laughing matter. If you’ve been injured by an unsafe product that failed to warn you of its inherent dangers or give you instructions on how to use it safely, consider exploring your legal options.

Source: FindLaw, “Defects in Warnings,” accessed March 09, 2018