Re: Why do we put so many warnings in our manuals?

Subject: Re: Why do we put so many warnings in our manuals?
From: "Steve Arrants" <stephena -at- compbear -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 30 Jul 2002 14:13:04 -0700

Unlike many of the...well, self-righteous, ignorant blowhards is too
strong....posters on this subject, I've been involved in a product liability
lawsuit involving improper instructions. I was a juror on a case that
involved an automobile model that, on its own, shifted out of Park and into
first gear. The owner of such a car was parked in her driveway and had the
car in Park with the parking brake on when she got out of the car to close
the garage door. The car shifted into gear, and hit her. Fortunately the
parking brake was on so she was not severely injured. This was not supposed
to happen with a car. So as a jury we were supposed to decide if the auto
manufacturer was liable and if so, what percentage of liability was the
manufacturer's and what percentage of liability was the car owner's.

While we were deliberating, the woman reached a settlement with the car
manufacturer. The manufacturer paid her an undisclosed sum and agreed to
both repair the defect (which they HAD known about--there'd been a
half-dozen or so similar situations), notify other owners of the model, and
place a warning in their manuals that you should always put you car in Park,
set the parking brake, and turn off the car when not in use.

While we in the jury room didn't reach a verdict because of the settlement,
for us it boiled down to common sense and who knew what. Yes, the driver
SHOULD have turned off the car. Yes, she SHOULD have taken that extra step.
Yet there are times when it is necessary to have the car running in order to
look at or diagnose a proble. The manufacturer should have recognized that
the problem had alread occured in other instances and issued a recall and/or
product warning via the appropriate government agency. But the costs would
have been high, about $60 per vehicle according to documents presented in

You can argue all you want about people being stupid or people not reading
instructions, or people not taking responsibility for their own actions.
But the fact is that when you purchase a product, you are trusting the
manufacturer to provide a product as described, that it will operate as
advertised, and that any warnings will be clearly spelled out. And if a
product is defective or dangerous, it is up to the manufacturer to take the
necessessary steps to notify its customers.
The doctrine of implied merchantability legally REQUIRES this. Cars kill,
especially if you drive them into a wall at 100 mph. Cars should not kill
if you put the transmission in park, put on the parking brake, and look
under the hood to find that strange rattling sound.

steve arrants Certified Cruelty Free
"The dream was marvelous, but the terror was great.
We must treasure the dream, whatever the terror."

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Re: Fw: Why do we put so many warnings in our manuals?: From: Janice Gelb

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