The Duty to Warn: Product Liability

The Duty to Warn: Product Liability

Under product liability law, manufacturers and suppliers of goods have a duty to warn consumers and users of any dangers that may be associated with the use of their products. Individuals injured by products with absent or even inadequate manufacturer warnings may be entitled to financial compensation to help recover medical expenses, lost past and future wages, pain and suffering, funeral expenses, and other damages.

Manufacturers have a duty to warn users when a product could be dangerous, when the hazard is known by the manufacturer (or should be known), when the danger is not obvious to the user, and when the usual and expected use of the product poses danger. While warning labels attached to products are some of the most common types of warnings that manufacturers and suppliers use, their existence does not always eliminate liability for injuries. In fact, there are three types of warning defects that may enable injured consumers to seek damages.

  • Failure to Warn: When there is a risk involved with the intentional or unintentional use of a product but no warning is provided at all, it is known as “failure to warn.”
  • Failure to Provide Adequate Warning: Even when warnings exist, they may not be considered adequate to effectively warn users of the potential risks.
  • Failure to Adequately Instruct: Manufacturers must also provide adequate instructions to assist the user in the safe operation of the product.

Product Liability: Who Must Be Warned

Many individuals are unaware that the manufacturer’s duty to warn of product dangers does not stop with the original purchaser or user. Third parties who could be placed at risk from product dangers must be adequately warned as well. While third parties can include friends, family members and employees of the original user, even individuals who are injured while in the vicinity of dangerous products may be entitled to damages as well.

The laws surrounding a manufacturer’s duty to warn are complex, and there are some situations when the duty to warn is relieved. Under the “sophisticated user” doctrine, for example, the manufacturer does not have a duty to warn when the dangers associated with the product are known to the user. Additionally, when the dangers of a product are obvious to the user, there is no duty to warn. In many of these cases, however, injured users may still be able to recover certain damages.