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More Wacky Warning Labels, and Other Legal Weirdness Print E-mail
by John Browning    Sat, Aug 16, 2014, 04:14 pm

It’s that time of year again when the Center for America releases the winners of its Wacky Warning Label contest.  Yes, nothing demonstrates how ridiculous and overlawyered our society has gotten quite like the warning labels chosen by the Center and its senior fellow Bob Dorigo Jones.  How far in absurd extremes will companies go in an attempt to avoid lawsuits?  Consider these finalists:


  • A sheet of decals (intended for bikes, bike helmets, skateboards, and scooters) given as a promotion by the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, which includes the warning “Decals are for decoration only and will not prevent you from any bodily harm or injury.”  If you think a decal doubles as a protective device, clearly your brain is no longer worth protecting; leave the helmet at home.


  • Speaking of helmets, another finalist is the warning label used by a football helmet manufacturer that reads “No helmet system can protect you from serious brain and/or neck injuries including paralysis or death.  To avoid these risks, do not engage in the sport of football.”  Let me see if I’ve got this straight: you’re in the business of making football helmets, and your advice is to not play the sport.  Good luck with that business model, folks.


  • The ink cartridge for a printer features a warning label on its packaging that reads “Do not drink.”  Seriously, if you need to be told not to drink printer ink, I not only don’t want you working in the office pool, I don’t want you reproducing in the gene pool.  It’s just too much of a risk.


  • The Mickey Mouse 4-in-1 Ride On toy, which bears a label that says: “Do not push vehicle while child is riding on it.”  I guess that leaves the sillier of two alternatives—push the vehicle when no one is on it and look stupid, or allow your child to experience the fun and play value in remaining absolutely still.


  • And maybe they’re onto something with that “no kids” theme.  Another finalist is the warning label on a cellphone battery charger which reads “Get rid of children.”  It’s either a really bad translation from the original language, or a cruel statement—take your pick.


Of course, wacky warning labels aren’t the only source of entertainment in the law.  There’s also the wit and wisdom of federal judges, like Judge Barry Ted Moscowitz of the Southern District of California.  Judge Moscowitz didn’t take kindly to the 495 total objections lodged by the defendants in Mills v. Buffalo Pumps, Inc. et al., particularly their objection on the grounds that one witness, a Mr. Willis, had not been shown to be unavailable to testify.  Judge Moscowitz pointed out that “The Court is confident that Mr. Willis is unavailable; he is deceased.  While federal subpoena power is broad, Mr. Willis is now beyond this Court’s jurisdiction.”  As both federal judges and pirates can agree, dead men tell no tales.


And speaking of the dead—“The Walking Dead”—another likely lawsuit may answer the question “If I run over a zombie, will my insurance rates go up?”  At San Diego’s annual Comic-Con recently, the driver of a car traveling past the annual mecca of all that is sci fi/fantasy/horror had a run-in with zombies.  Not the real kind, mind you, but a crowd of costumed people dressed as the flesh-craving undead taking part in the convention’s “zombie walk.”  The 48 year-old driver and his family in the car—who clearly do not watch much television—became “scared” of the slow-moving zombies as they lurched through the intersection and pawed at the car.  The driver sped up and then “plowed through” the crowd, injuring one woman who was taken to a nearby hospital.  Here’s a quick bit of legal advice: plowing through a crowd of zombies during a zombie apocalypse may save your life, but plowing through a crowd of people dressed as zombies as part of a science fiction convention will get you sued and possibly thrown in jail.


And just to show you that some people really do have problems distinguishing reality from fiction, I leave you with Ms. Ajanaffy Njewadda and her lawsuit against New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and the cable network Showtime.  According to her lawsuit filed in late June, Ms. Njewadda fell down a Grand Central Terminal stairwell and broke her ankle on June 20, 2013 because she was “startled” by a disturbing ad for the Showtime series “Dexter” (which is about a serial killer who kills other serial killers).  The poster in question covered the side of every step in a stairwell leading to a shuttle train and depicted the face of “Dexter” star Michael C. Hall.  Njewadda claims that the “shocking and menacing” face frightened her and caused her to lose her balance, and has given her nightmares as well.  Both the MTA and Showtime have denied liability.


Maybe we need a warning label to place on people who can’t separate fact from fiction.

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