Warning: Don’t Touch Fire

Warning: Do Not Put Hands in Fire

An age-old products liability dilemma for manufacturers:

What will a court consider, in hindsight, to be an “obvious” product danger?

Generally, under U.S. law, there is no legal duty for product makers or sellers to warn of product dangers that are obvious?  Why?  Because if they’re obvious, people will already know about them and the warning won’t accomplish anything.  Google dictionary synonyms for obvious include plain to see, evident, apparent, conspicuous, prominent, noticeable,” even unmissable.

But what’s obvious to most people may not be obvious to everyone, so why not go ahead and warn, even when it seems obvious, such as the risk of burns from sticking your hands into a fire?  The major problem here it that it looks like you have to stick your head into the fire to see the warning, which says:

Do Not Touch The Fire Or The Fire-Glass.  Severe Burning And Cutting May Occur

Whoa!  Burning AND Cutting?  That, I did not see coming until my face was already on fire.

–Thanks to the Randy Maniloff, who took this picture at a local restaurant.  Check out his Coverage Opinions site for intelligent legal commentary and humor, along with his fascinating interviews with everyone from Richard Posner and John Grisham to the guitarist-turned-lawyer from Blind Melon.

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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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