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Warning Factions

Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse make their point stick

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

WHAT IS probably the most ignored statement in current usage? "Warning: This product may cause ..." (pick your disease).

And Don Wolfe does not think this is OK.

"Today, products have warnings on them for just about any imaginable misuses of the product--even if it's common sense--just to protect themselves from frivolous lawsuits," says Don Wolfe, executive director of the San Jose-based Silicon Valley Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA) [www.cala.org]. "The warning labels you see today really prove that abuse of our legal system has gone too far. Hairdryers come with warnings to 'not use while sleeping' and children's costumes warn that wearing a cape doesn't actually enable a child to fly."

Stating that a proliferation of "abusive lawsuits" has caused companies to issue unnecessary warnings, CALA has issued yellow sticky notes, containing five "wacky warning labels," to illustrate its point:

WARNING: Use of this product may cause paper cuts.

WARNING: Do not use to put out fire.

WARNING: Do not place over eyes while driving.

WARNING: Rapid removal may cause soft tissue damage.

WARNING: Do not use as a flotation device.

Warning sticker

"Each of these five warnings is ridiculous in relation to the product, and that is exactly the point," says Wolfe. "Warning labels are fast becoming meaningless as companies are forced to add everything imaginable to them. Personal responsibility is being eliminated from our society that seems to encourage consumers to turn to the courtroom anytime they choose."

To discourage this practice, I have issued my own list of special product warnings, to be followed at your own risk:

CAUTION: Avoid angering beaked or horned animals which are in close proximity to your eyes.

WARNING: Computer may crash before this sentence is able to fi

WARNING: When it appears that the end is in sight, please adjust eyeglasses.

BEWARE: This music CD may not necessarily contain a single musician.

CAUTION: Dialing "O" during a voicemail menu does not necessarily mean you will eventually be allowed to speak with a living person.

CAUTION: These condoms are subject to random pinholes.

WARNING: At high speeds, this automobile may travel faster than its driver.

CAUTION: This movie does not necessarily have an ending.

BEWARE: The fact that you have a cubicle and a computer in this space before lunchtime does not necessarily mean that the same conditions will exist after lunch.

CAUTION: Fingers inserted into gated communities will be confiscated.

BEWARE: George Lucas may not necessarily live long enough to complete the second Star Wars Trilogy.

CAUTION: Persons singing Christmas carols outside this door will be ignored.

WARNING: Items tossed out of your vehicle will be summarily tossed back in.

BEWARE: Vagrants may follow you into your house.

CAUTION: "Last Customer in Line" sign will be applied at random intervals within this line.

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WARNING: Prolonged sitting in front of this television may result in the loss of your children.

CAUTION: Following these directions will almost certainly lead you to be hopelessly lost.

STOP WHATEVER YOU'RE DOING! (This is a general precaution, to be replaced by the warning "DO SOMETHING!" if you are not currently doing anything.)

CAUTION: Legs will not necessarily fit in the space provided by the airline.

WARNING: Amount of fees charged by this ATM will be selected by lottery.

PELIGRO: Spanish is spoken here, but in an accent you will almost certainly not be able to understand.

CAUTION: Descending to the ice during an Owen Noland breakaway is not recommended.

BEWARE: All persons placing bets against Tiger Woods are subject to random mental tests.

FURTHER BEWARE: All persons placing bets for a San Francisco 49ers win are subject to same.

WARNING: Bank branch is subject to phase-out while you are still in this line.

BEWARE: Wheels on this shopping cart may not necessarily work.

WARNING: The Doobie Brothers have never disbanded and may be appearing soon at a venue near you.

CAUTION: This shopping line does not necessarily lead anywhere.

WARNING: The dangling feet of people on the amusement rides above you may kick.

And the most important of all--

WARNING: Reader inability to laugh while reading so-called humor material is not the responsibility of the management.

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From the December 2-8, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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