Just in Time for Mother's Day: Baby Products' Wacky Warnings Signal Lawsuit-Happy Society

The SE Texas Record May 5, 2010, 5:00am

By Veronica Villegas

Any woman celebrating Mother's Day understands that, along with the joys of motherhood, sleep deprivation can make you a little foggy.

Your car keys seem to be consistently lost. Sometimes your socks don't match. Sometimes the baby's socks don't match.

While you may lose some of your edge as a new mom, your brain doesn't dissolve completely.

So you might chuckle when reading the warning labels on some of the baby products on the market today. For example, a baby sling warns "Do not use while cooking, driving in a car, bicycling, jogging, skiing, etc."

Another baby carrier's label insists that the product is "only for use by a care-giver," lest some bleary-eyed parent might strap their kid to the family Labrador.

Here are some of other labels on kid products that have won an annual "wacky warning" contest hosted by a lawsuit abuse watchdog group:

  • A label on a baby stroller warns: "Remove child before folding."

  • A label on the underside of a cereal bowl warns, "Always use this product with adult supervision."

  • A baby stroller featuring a small pouch for storage that warns: "Do not put child in bag."

  • A baby gate warns: "This product will not necessarily prevent all accidents."

  • A popular scooter for children warns: "This product moves when used."

    Whew. Glad somebody warned us.

    More than indicating an outbreak of dense parents, these warning labels are actually a sign of our litigious society where wacky lawsuits have become the norm.

    Sadly if you can dream it up, you can probably sue over it. To protect themselves, manufacturers have to think up all manner of strange scenarios that might prompt a lawsuit.

    Although these labels are supposed to enhance safety, they may do just the opposite. The multitude of obvious warnings on so many products may lead many of us to ignore warning labels altogether.

    As a result, many consumers will miss important information they need to keep them and their children safe. As it turns out, when we warn of everything, we warn of nothing.

    While the labels may seem funny, lawsuit abuse is no laughing matter. Junk lawsuits cost us all by driving up the cost of services and everyday goods (including those baby products that already cost a fortune).

    Baseless lawsuits also keep life-saving products off the market and can significantly delay or even stop research into potential new treatments and vaccines. Before common sense reforms passed in Texas, out-of-state lawsuits clogged our courts, small business owners operated in fear of the one lawsuit that could put them out of business and their employees out of a job, and doctors were being driven out of the state by abusive and baseless suits.

    The cost and consequences of lawsuit abuse impact every family in the nation. We can only hope that by the time today's babies are grown, we will have made even greater strides to curb lawsuit abuse. Hopefully by then, no one besides their mothers will need to warn them to turn on their common sense.

    Veronica Villegas is the Rio Grande Valley Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse Representative and Vice President of the RGV Partnership Chamber of Commerce. She lives in McAllen and is the mother of two boys.

    CALA is a nonprofit, grassroots public education movement dedicated to raising awareness about the cost and consequences of lawsuit abuse. The movement is supported by more than 25,000 Texans. For more information, visit www.calahouston.org

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