Wacky Warning Labels A Sign of Litigious Times

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:05 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Sometimes it pays to read the fine print.

A Holland, Mich., man has won the $500 top-prize in a "wacky warning label" contest sponsored by a consumer watchdog group.

The winning label was attached to a heat gun/paint remover that reaches temperatures of 1000 degrees: "Do not use this tool as a hair dryer," the label said.

The first-place winner also will receive a copy of the book, "The Death of Common Sense," by Philip K. Howard.

The Wacky Warning Label Contest, now in its ninth year, is conducted by a group called Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch, or M-LAW. The point is to show how concern about lawsuits has prompted some companies to state the obvious in their "warning" labels.

The second place award - and $250 - went to the Michigan woman who found a label on a kitchen knife, warning the user, "Never try to catch a falling knife."

Third place and $100 went to a Colorado woman who noticed a cocktail napkin printed with a map of the waters around Hilton Head, S.C. "Not to be used for navigation," the label said.

Honorable mention went to the Texas man who found a warning on a bottle of dried bobcat urine used to keep pests away from garden plants: "Not for human consumption," it said.

The winning labels were selected from a list of M-LAW's finalists by listeners of the Dick Purtan show on Detroit radio station, WOMC-FM.

"Warning labels are a sign of our lawsuit-plagued times," said Robert B. Dorigo Jones, M-LAW president.

"An unpredictable legal system -- in which many judges allow anyone to file a lawsuit on almost any theory -- has created a need for product makers to plaster wacky warnings on everything. When judges see it as their job to dismiss cases that are rooted in frivolous theories, we'll see fewer wacky labels and more fairness in the courts," Dorigo Jones said in a press release.

M-LAW describes itself as a non-partisan organization that works to increase awareness of how litigation is hurting America.

Dorigo Jones is now writing a book about the 101 "Stupidest, Silliest and Wackiest Warning Labels Ever."

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