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How can insufficient warning result in VA products liability?

Many Virginian's are aware that the designers and manufacturers of products--including automobiles, toys, prescription drugs, medical devices and many other products--can be held liable for the injuries caused by use of those products if the products had a design flaw or were manufactured improperly. However, there is another way that products can be considered dangerous or defective, which can also result in legal liability for injuries: insufficient warning.

A lack of instructions or warnings provided with a product can cause a product to be classified as a dangerous or defective product in certain situations. These situations exist when there is a foreseeable risk of harm created by use of the product and that risk of harm could have been significantly reduced or eliminated altogether if instructions or warnings had been provided by the product designer, manufacturer or distributor. Legal liability results in these situations when a manufacturer fails to comply with certain duties or obligations under the law.

Essentially, the law places two separate, but related legal obligations on manufacturers associated with product warnings. The first duty requires manufacturers to provide warnings related to any hidden dangers that may exist when a consumer uses a product. This means that if there is a risk associated with use of a product that is not readily apparent to an average consumer, the manufacturer must clearly make this risk known by providing a warning. The second duty requires manufacturers to provide adequate instructions to consumers so that consumers understand how to use a product safely and thus avoid any associated risks.

In addition to the legal duty to provide adequate instructions and warnings, there are also rules relating to the format of the warning. Warnings must be easily visible and conspicuous, as well as clear and specific. Warnings are not always required for all products. As encompassed by the explanation of the legal duties on manufacturers above, warnings are only legally required when a product poses a risk, the manufacturer is aware of the risk or danger, the danger exists even when the consumer uses the product as intended, and the danger is not obvious to an ordinary consumer. Nonetheless, despite these limitations on the circumstances when a warning is legally required, many product manufacturers chose to include warnings in other cases simply to provide an additional protection against liability.

Source: FindLaw.com, "Defects in Warnings," accessed on Feb. 8, 2015

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