Portable toilet warning just another way to avoid frivolous lawsuits
If you intend to use "The Original Off-Road Commode," a toilet seat that attaches to the back of your vehicle, the manufacturer suggests you stop driving first.
That's not only pretty basic advice, but it seems, for most people, to be a pretty silly statement. It's like saying if you jump off a cliff, you might kill yourself.
Yet that warning is on the off-road commode and it won first place in this year's "Wacky Warning Labels" contest, sponsored by the Foundation for Fair Civil Justice.
Steve Shiflett of Hampton, Ga., won $500 for submitting the toilet seat, which is "not for use on moving vehicles," according to its packaging.
Second place went to an instruction guide for a wart-removal product. "Do not use if you cannot see clearly to read the information in the information booklet" won Daniel Berganini of Fridley, Minn., a prize of $250.
These are funny but there's a serious edge to the contest, now in its 12th year.
Companies are going to extremes to try to stave off possible lawsuits when people do stupid things — like trying to use a commode while it is on a moving vehicle.
As ludicrous as it sounds, unfortunately there are people — we use the term loosely; morons is probably a better description — out there who might try it. And then, if they get hurt, they would file a lawsuit.
Organizers of the label contest admit that the reason for the event is to show how frivolous lawsuits distort the U.S. civil justice system.
Retired Oakland County Circuit Judge Fred Mester will attest to that fact.
He recalls one case where an individual went outside just after a heavy snowstorm fell. The individual parked next to a snow bank and proceeded to go into a local store. The person fell, broke his leg and then sued almost every entity he could think of — from the store to the city and the county.
"I threw that case out," Mester explained, "because there was simply no way anyone could have responded quickly enough to clear the sidewalk and prevent the fall. The individual made the choice to go to the store (during bad weather). That was her fault, no one else's."
Mester noted a parallel between silly signs and frivolous lawsuits. The more silly warning labels there are, the less likely a person is to follow it or more serious warnings.
By the same token, the more ridiculous lawsuits there are, the less quickly legitimate cases will be heard