Sunday, October 12, 2008

Frivolous Lawsuits

I think we've all had one of those moments where you see something, your jaw drops to the floor in amazement and disbelief, and you say to yourself, "Self, that is SURELY the result of some sort of frivolous lawsuit."

The legal disclaimers we see on products today often leave me wondering what the HECK some idiot did that caused the company to put THAT statement on the warning label or user manual.

We have become an "I'm a Victim" society. We seem to think that if the user manual doesn't tell us NOT to do something, then it's okay for us to try it. If it doesn't work out, then we can sue the manufacturer for the physical damages and or emotional trauma that result.

What happened to common sense?

Do you think major corporations today have some sort of "red team" that sits around thinking up bizarre ways people are going to hurt themselves by using the company's product in a totally unintended way?

Why do I ask?

After church today we went to Arby's to lunch.

In the boys' kids meals, they each got an Arby's toy. They're plastic, in the shape of the Arby's hat (I'll show you a picture here in just a sec). One was a magnifying glass, and the other was a pen. (Yippie. Try to contain your excitment. Actually, the kids were pretty excited, although I'm not really sure why.)

These toys came with a little slip of paper instructions with a full length paragraph on how to use the toy. The slips of paper were even unique and specific to the pen versus the magnifying glass, and the last sentence of the paragraph (for both the pen and the magnifying glass) was,

"This is a toy and is not intended to be used as a piece of survival equipment."

Uhhhh... SERIOUSLY???

Arby's Magnifying Glass

I mean, what is the likelihood that someone would see this in their kid's happy meal and say, "Oooh, I need a magnifying glass for my trip to the Amazonian rain forests next weekend!" Furthermore, what's the likelihood that even if that person DID take this magnificent magnifying glass with them, that the magnifying glass would somehow fail to perform it's function? What, does it dissolve in water? Does it melt in temperatures above 90F?

And why is the same disclaimer on the pen instructions? How is a pen supposed to be used as a piece of survival equipment? Only one scenario comes to my mind. Imagine if you will... I'm stranded on a tropical island. I somehow happen upon a scroll of paper and a bottle. Here's my chance to write my distress note in a message in a bottle. I reach into my pocket. Since I ate lunch at Arby's with my family before I got onto the airplane that crashed on this island, I HAPPEN to have an Arby's kid's meal PEN in my pocket. But alas, I recall reading the instructions that came with said pen, and I say to myself, "Self, this is NOT a survival tool. I think writing a distress note for a message in a bottle technically qualifies as an act of survival, so I better not use this pen."


In a momentary lapse of judgement, I USE the pen to WRITE my distress note. My bottle washes up on the shore of a thriving metropolis with the maritime projection capability to rescue me, but the ink faded in the sunlight as it traversed the miles across the open ocean, so my distress note was illegible. Twenty years later when my beard reaches my toes, the staff of CBS arrives on my deserted island looking for a new place to host the next season of Survivor. They take me back to civilization, and I SUE ARBY'S because nobody ever rescued me. ...Only the judge doesn't find in my favor because Arby's specifically stated in the instructions that it's NOT a survival tool.


Well, I can think of some MUCH MORE LIKELY as well as IMPROPER uses of these toys. If it were ME sitting in that corporate red team board room, I would have suggested some alternative legal disclaimers.

How about...

- Do not stick this pen in any sort of electrical outlet.

- Do not stick this pen in a toaster (unless you at least unplug the toaster first).

- Do not use this pen to dislodge any paper jams from your copy machine.

- Do not use this pen to override a safety feature on a power tool.

- Do not stick this pen up your nose.

- Do not stick this pen in your ear.

- Better yet, to cover all the bases, do not stick this pen in any of your bodily orifices, nor those of your sibling, parental unit, neighbor, cousin, friend, acquaintance, random-passerby, classmate, teacher, librarian, school bus driver, grocer, gas station attendant, video rental store clerk, barber, trash collector, IRS agent, pet, farm animal, or zoo creature.

[Light goes off over head!]

Actually, no. I'VE GOT IT!!!

Are you ready for my new get-rich-quick scheme???

I'm going to start a small fire with my eldest son's Arby's magnifying glass, and the fire will accidentally consume some prize possession... Hmmmm, what prize possession shall we throw in accidentally allow to be consumed by the fire? Oh, I've got it! The fire will accidentally consume my youngest son's precious Arby's Kid's Meal PEN!

THEN! I'm going to SUE ARBY'S because they didn't write "Not to be used as a fire-starting device" on the instructions or include a diagram of the fire triangle and proper fire safety watch procedures. Surely the emotional trauma and anguish to YB will be worth a couple of million bucks.


How much did the "victim" in the McD's hot coffee lawsuit get?

Ah, yes, $2.7 million.

Incidentally, I found the answer in this quick summary of the Top Ten Frivolous Lawsuits. They're just totally bizarre.

But seriously... not to be used as a SURVIVAL TOOL????


Sagey said...

I think you are on to something with using the magnifier glass to start a fire. Can a plastic magnifier start fire? That might be why they said it was NOT to be used as a survival tool because they do not want to be sued when you cannot start a fire to keep yourself warm out in the freezing cold arctic woods that all children travel to. :-)

And this suing phenomenon is really a United States thing. When we traveled to Victoria, BC we noticed that there was not the prevalence of warnings on products like you find here...

But seriously we all had a good laugh at lunch when I read the instructions.

Ruth Burkett said...

I think I may have the answer here for the pen.In the case of choking on a piece of Arby's food, do not attempt to use the pen barrel as a temporary trachea tube (a la House, ER, or Grey's Anatomy). See this is how it would go: You're at Arby's when a parental unit or some such adult chokes on a bite of beef. You attempt the Heimlich to no avail. The unfortunate soul is turning seriously blue, cannot breathe, and hasn't been breathing now for 3 minutes. Your child, however, has a trusty Arby's pen, BUT you remember this is "not a survival tool." The rescue squad arrives 5 minutes later, revives the victim, and takes him/her to the hospital for further treatment.

Nine months later you get a summons to appear in court to testify as to your part in the incident. You see, the victim and her/his heirs and assigns are suing both you and Arby's because you did not use all means at your disposal to save the choking victim, she/he is now confined to a nursing home as a result of brain damage caused by the lack of oxygen to the brain during the 8 minutes she/he could not breathe and you did not use the pen as a survival tool.

The case against you is dismissed; Arby's, however, must pay.

Yes, I probably watch way too many of those medical shows on TV. 8-)

David'Z RantZ said...

Excellent post! (Almost thought I was reading BlunoZ' RantZ!) Especially liked "Do not use this pen to override a safety feature on a power tool." Inspired!

And as for "common sense?" It's become an oxymoron. Sense is not common. Not any more.