Warning: Do Not Eat iPod Shuffle

Warning: Do not eat iPod shuffle.It’s hard to tell in this warning if Apple was serious or trying to be amusing in admonishing consumers “Do not eat iPod shuffle.”

It seems jokey, especially because it follows the jokey tone of the instructions above, where it says that syncing the device will be “a piece of cake. Cupcake, even.”

No doubt Apple has a galaxy of outstanding legal advisors, so it’s surprising no one pointed out: “Never, ever make jokes in product warnings.”

Let’s assume hypothetically that the product seriously injured someone in a different way that should have been, but wasn’t, warned about, say, because the battery could explode.  Picture the cross-examination:

“So you didn’t warn consumers about the danger of exploding batteries, is that true?”

“That’s correct.”

“But you did warn them not to eat their iPod shuffle, is that correct?”

“Yes, but we were just joking about that.”

“Sir, my client is blind in one eye because of your failure to warn. Does Apple  consider product warnings to be a joke?”

On the other hand, it’s possible that it is intended as a real warning to not eat iPod shuffles, which would be unnecessary.  Manufacturers do not have a legal duty to warn consumers not to eat electronic devices. The exception, of course, would be if the object was small enough to present a choking hazard to children.  That doesn’t appear to be the case with an iPod shuffle. But even if that is a risk, the warning should not say “Do not eat iPod shuffle,” but like, “Choking hazard–Keep away from small children.”

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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