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WARNING! If You Assume Your Case Will Survive Because You Have a “Creative” Warnings Expert, You Do So At Your Own Risk, by Ernie Goodwin, Product Liability Advocate


Those of us in the business of defending products look at the world in a slightly different way. When I come across a warning label, I actually study it because in a failure to warn case, the language of the warning, the color of the label and its location on the product are relevant to the effectiveness of the warning. In my experience defending manufacturers of various types of products, I have seen plaintiffs make speculative failure to warn claims. Less-experienced plaintiffs’ attorneys assume that a creative theory developed by a well-credentialed “warnings expert” will be enough to leverage a settlement in an otherwise weak case on liability. That is a dangerous assumption to make.

The case law in all jurisdictions is clear when it comes to the burden of proof for a warnings claim; there has to be a direct link between the failure of the manufacturer to warn about the hazard and the cause of the incident. Moreover, the plaintiff’s expert must consider, among many other things, all of the available accident data and not rely only on select facts from the record to support his findings. A manufacturer who is facing a speculative warnings claim has a few options for dealing with these types of claims. The most effective and frequently used tool is the Daubert motion to exclude the expert from testifying at trial. . . .