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“Failure to Warn” and Strict Product Liability

On Behalf of | Dec 11, 2018 | Legal Resources

Product manufacturers have a responsibility to adequately warn the public of any potential dangers the use of their product may cause. If a manufacturer is found to have failed to meet this responsibility, they may be held liable for any injuries their product has caused, as has been seen in recent Johnson & Johnson and Monsanto lawsuits. Here, the product liability attorneys at The Law Offices of Peter Angelos explain the concept of “failure to warn” and how it affects a product liability case.

What Does “Failure to Warn” Mean?

“Failure to warn” means that a manufacturer does not adequately inform the public of the potential risks that may occur when their product is used. In strict products liability law, the product liability law that governs most states, inadequate or nonexistent warnings are considered a type of product defect. It is important to note that manufacturers have an obligation to warn consumers of risks that are not considered “obvious.” For example, a manufacturer of lighters would likely not have to warn consumers that lighters may cause fire, because this is the explicit purpose and an obvious result of the use of the product. A manufacturer of headache medicine that can cause irregular heartbeat, however, would have a responsibility to warn the public of this potential risk, as irregular heartbeat is not an obvious result of the use of headache medicine.

Common Defenses Against the “Failure to Warn” Concept

There are several common claims a defendant may make to challenge a “failure to warn” claim. The first may be that the plaintiff used the product in a way the plaintiff knew would cause injury, or used the product despite knowing of the risks. A defendant may also claim that the plaintiff used the product in a way the manufacturer never intended or used the product in a careless manner. Finally, if the product was tampered with, or manipulated to a significant extent by another product or individual, it may be argued that these changes were the cause of injury, and that the product itself would not have caused injury without these changes having been made. A product liability attorney, such as those at The Law Offices of Peter Angelos, can help a plaintiff anticipate these defenses and determine the true course of events that caused harm to the plaintiff.

What are Some Examples of Recent Product Liability Cases Based on the “Failure to Warn” Concept?

Two major cases that exemplify the “failure to warn” concept are the recent Johnson & Johnson talcum powder and the Monsanto Roundup lawsuits. Plaintiffs in California, Missouri and many other states have filed lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, and many plaintiffs have received hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements, after courts decided that Johnson & Johnson failed to adequately warn consumers that talcum powder, when used for feminine hygiene purposes, may increase the likelihood of ovarian cancer.

A jury in California also ruled that Monsanto, the corporation that manufactures popular weedkiller Roundup, failed to warn consumers that exposure to Roundup could cause several types of cancer, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Dewayne Johnson, a California groundskeeper diagnosed with this type of cancer, was awarded $289 million in damages after he alleged that Monsanto failed to warn him and other consumers of the health risks Roundup posed.

Legal Recourse for Individuals Injured by a Product Without Adequate Warning from the Manufacturer

There are laws in place that are meant to protect consumers from dangerous or defective products. When manufacturers fail to adhere to standards of reporting the potential risks of products they develop, they may be held responsible for injuries sustained by consumers. If you or a loved one have used a product that caused injury and believe that the manufacturer of the product did not clearly state the risks of use, you may be liable for compensation. For a no-fee consultation, contact The Law Offices of Peter Angelos today.