Defects in Warnings

The last type of defect focuses on the warnings that a manufacturer fails to give regarding the dangerousness of a product. Under the Restatement (Third), a product may be defective “because of inadequate instructions or warnings when the foreseeable risks of harm posed by the product could have been reduced or avoided by the provision of reasonable instructions or warnings by the seller or other distributor,… and the omission of the instructions or warnings renders the product not reasonably safe.”

A manufacturer is under two related duties. First, the manufacturer is required to warn users of hidden dangers that may be present in a product. Second, the manufacturer must instruct users how to use a product so that the users can avoid any dangers and use the product safely. An example could involve a fan that is prone to overheating if operated for more than three hours continuously. After three hours, the fan could present a fire risk. If the manufacturer fails to provide a warning about the potential danger of the product, then a plaintiff who is injured in a fire started by the product could recover not only for a defect in the design of the fan, but also for the inadequate warnings regarding the danger posed by the fan.

A warning generally must be clear and specific. It should also be conspicuous and placed in a location that the user can easily find. Many manufacturers now provide warnings in foreign languages and by using symbols so that children and non-English speaking users are aware of dangers associated with a product.

Inside Defects in Warnings