Child Safety - Warning Lables Are Not Always Effective

Posted by Bagby & Associates LLC on 24 September 2012

Consumer Product Safety Commission Moves Away from Just Warning on Dangerous Products

In 2010, a toy that contained tiny but extremely powerful magnets was a huge hit in toy stores.  Unfortunately, the magnets found their way into the hands of small children, who not surprisingly swallowed them and, in some cases, suffered serious medical complications.  Regulators initially responded by putting a warning on the product and launching an intense public service campaign to advise parents of the danger.

Despite best efforts, at least nine more incidents occurred in 2010, followed by 17 incidents in 2011, and then 25 incidents in 2012.  Regulators concluded that the public service campaign warning about the danger of swallowing two or more the magnetic balls had not been effective.  As a result, the Consumer Product Safety Commission made the rare decision to ban the product completely.

Recently, the CPSC has begun to address the issues of warnings with a more proactive approach, requiring companies to redesign warning labels or make them more prominent.  The CPSC can also demand a design change on a product when the current one fails to adequately warn consumers about a danger or is ineffective in catching the consumer’s attention.  Courts have concluded that simply putting a warning on a product does not completely absolve a company of its duty not to sell an unreasonably dangerous product.  If an injury is caused by an unsafe product, the consumer can seek legal recourse.  In this situation, the CPSC concluded that the toy was just simply too dangerous and the warnings inadequate, resulting in an outright ban of the product.

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