DETROIT – The sign on the toilet brush says it best: “Do not use for personal hygiene.”
That admonition was the winner of an anti-lawsuit group’s contest for the wackiest consumer warning label of the year.
The sponsor, Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch, says the goal is “to reveal how lawsuits, and concern about lawsuits, have created a need for common-sense warnings on products.”
The $500 first prize went to Ed Gyetva, of Oldcastle, Ontario, who submitted the toilet-brush label. A $250 second prize went to Matt Johnson, of Naperville, Ill., for a label on a children’s scooter that said “This product moves when used.”
A $100 third prize went to Ann Marie Taylor, of Camden, S.C., who submitted a warning from a digital thermometer that said, “Once used rectally, the thermometer should not be used orally.”
This year’s contest coincides with a drive by President Bush and congressional Republicans to put caps and other limits on jury awards in liability cases.
“Warning labels are a sign of our lawsuit-plagued times,” said Abuse Watch president Robert Dorigo Jones. “From the moment we raise our head in the morning off pillows that bear those famous ‘Do Not Remove’ warnings, to when we drop back in bed at night, we are overwhelmed with warnings.”
The leader of a group that opposes the campaign to limit lawsuits admits that while some warning labels may seem stupid, even dumb warnings can do some good.
“There are many cases of warning labels saving lives,” said Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy in New York. “It’s much better to be very cautious … than to be afraid of being made fun of by a tort reform group.”
The Wacky Warning Label Contest is in its eighth year.