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Dec. 6 US: Product Liability Advisory November 2012: Indirect Warnings May Be Sufficient as a Matter of Law

This advisory is brought to you by Sedgwick LLP concerning a language dispute on product labels.

In a unanimous decision released on June 21, 2012 the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals sanctioned the ability of trial courts to determine the adequacy of a warning label as a matter of law.  See Farias v. Mr. Heater, Inc., 684 F.3d 1231, 1236 (11th Cir. 2012). The court also held that despite the fact that a manufacturer sells products to Spanish-speaking customers in South Florida, that the manufacturer was not required to provide Spanish-language warning labels. Id. This case is important because it will likely provide leverage for future manufacturers seeking summary judgment on the issue of whether a particular warning label was sufficient.

While the full impact of the 11th Circuit decision is unknown at this time, the case’s dicta seems like a clear warning—no pun intended—that if a company is marketing to and targeting a Hispanic population, that it  could subject itself to additional liability by failing to include Spanish-language warnings. At the same time, the decision provides valuable leverage for companies who are fighting “failure to warn” cases because the 11th Circuit made clear that the adequacy of a warning can be decided as a matter of law even if the warning only indirectly prohibited the damage-causing activity.

For more of the facts about the case please refer to the link above.

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