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How do I know a manufacturer has lived up to the duty to warn?

If you've looked at the label of nearly any product you buy in Houston these days chances are good there is some sort of warning attached. This is an effort on the part of the manufacturer to limit any possible liability in the event a consumer suffers injury due to product defect or product misuse.

Sometimes it seems producers go to ridiculous lengths to warn customers about possible risks. For example, there's an over-the-counter sleeping aid that alerts users that it may cause drowsiness. One would hope it does. But the reason manufacturers take such precautions is because the law makes clear they have a duty to warn consumers of any risk of injury a user might face.

It may not matter whether the consumer uses the product as intended or in some other way. If a manufacturer has reason to think a product might reasonably be used in some unintended way and injury could result -- the duty to warn is still there.

Considering how imaginative some people can get in employing the products they buy how is a consumer supposed to know when a warning is adequate? The answer is that it can be difficult. Such determinations are always subject to legal interpretation. If you think you have a claim, seeking an attorney's help is always recommended. But some general standards do exist.

The duty to warn generally includes two standards. First, if a product has any sort of hidden danger, the producer must warn users about it. And if special instructions are needed to ensure that dangers are avoided, that has to be provided, as well.

As an example, if the maker of a string of lights knows they can overheat and trigger fire if used for more than three hours at a stretch, the consumer deserves to be warned. The warning must be clear, it must be specific to the issue and it must be visible so the user won't miss it.

If those standards are followed and a consumer still misuses a product in a way that results in damage or injury, a suit seeking compensation may still be possible. But it might require making a case that the manufacturer should have known the misuse was reasonable.

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