Editor’s note: I actually wrote this article some years ago back when I was doing editorials for a GT network BBS I used to SysOp, but I got a number of requests to post it on the net, from folks who had read it back then. So, I’ll do so here. Beisdes, there’s a recent update to the story.


I’m on the soap-box about lawsuits and government regulations, and warnings and such. All of this came about when I looked at a bag of ice I’d just bought, and noticed that the bag actually had a nutritional statement on it, of all things.

I was amused to learn that because the bag of ice contained 0% fat, it qualifies
under government regulations, as a low fat food! (They must not be using the water from around here, then.)

It was at this point that I started to consider all the strange and wonderful messages we are hit with every day, because of government, and of lawyers. In the process, I made some interesting discoveries.

Consider:It is because of lawsuits and Lawyers that everything we buy has a ridiculous warning on it. My lawn mower actually has a warning that reads:



Duh! This sticker exists because somone went to court claiming minus part of a hand or a foot, claiming he or she didn’t KNOW there was a slight problem with putting their foot under a mower? Worse… a jury thought they were telling the truth, and forced the manufacturer to pay millions for this person’s rehab. Far as I can tell, half a foot is the least of the problems, here.

It gets worse.

I bought a toaster oven the other day. My new toaster oven came with a whole list of warnings:

” Do not touch heating coils. ”

Gee. I wonder why?

“Do not stick foreign objects in oven.”

Aw, Gee… No French Bread?

” For best results do not submerge oven in bathtub.”

It’s OK if I leave it on the EDGE of the tub, so long as it doesn’t fall in, I guess. One also wonders what they would consider less than “best results”.

” Do not drop oven on your foot.”

Aw, Gee. What happens?

“Oven is not to be used as protective headgear.”

Not even at a party?

This list of oddball warnings goes on and on. I sometimes think my $30 toaster oven would cost $15 if they didn’t have a staff of highly paid lawyers somewhere thinking up this stuff… and highly paid union printers packing literature in there with it, containing what the lawyers tell them to print.

Thinking that there is a reason for all this nonsense, that each of these warnings on a product represents a previous (successful) lawsuit, I decided to focus on one of these warnings, I chose to investigate what caused the ‘Toaster oven as Headgear’ business. It’s amazing what you can find when you’ve got a fast Internet connection
and a good computer… and a Saturday afternoon to kill. Turns out that I was right; there was a strange story behind it.

In this example, some moron in Tacoma went to work at a construction site one day, with a toaster oven on his head instead of his hard hat, so his pals could get a laugh. Yuk Yuk.

A Scooby-Doo lunch box another worker dropped on him injured him. (I can just picture this big burley construction worker with his Scooby-Doo lunchbox, can’t you?) From the accounts, the lunchbox landed on his head. Well, it landed on the toaster oven, which was on his head. What is unclear is how much head damage was

In any event, he apparently wasn’t warned by the toaster maker that a box of tin filled with heating coils and no padding does not protect your head from metal lunchboxes filled with baloney sandwiches and a thermos full of coffee, moving at 33 ft/sec. So, in response, he sued the toaster oven company as well as his employer, the lunchbox maker, and Hanna-Barbera, who drew the pictures on the lunbchbox and just for good measure, the state of Washington and the federal government. (Apparently, the work site was a government building…. A Post Office. Doesn’t it make you all warm and fuzzy inside knowing that idiots like this are responsible for the quality of the work on government buildings?)

Get this: The guy won $6.33 million, and then took the money and bought a brand new trailer home (the old one was pretty bad… I remembered seeing him on TV at the time) and a collection of commemorative Elvis plates. What novel choices for expenditures! I guess you can’t change a real man.

In response to this unprecedented cost of doing business, the toaster oven manufacturer decided to warn people of the rather limited uses of their product.

Now, before you get started,…./Of course/ I believe that companies should be held accountable for the safety of their products, given reasonable use. I just think that our purposes could be better served by one warning:

WARNING: Do not use this product if you are a complete idiot.

We all know about the MacDonald’s coffee case. Nowadays every drive-up and every cup of coffee the Fallen Arches serves up, has a label:


Look, Gang… Let’s nip this one, shall we? Coffee is hot, and it will burn you if you’re not careful. If you don’t understand this, then you’ve got bigger problems than a $2.7 million settlement can solve, OK? I suppose you are, however, qualified as a possible winner of the Darwin Award.

Now, just recently, a case against McDonalds, which was almost verbatim the same case as was brought here in the states, was laughed out of a court in London. I’ve not seen the particulars, myself, but the reports I’m seeing suggest the judge gave the plaintiff a bit of a chewing out, and I gather the lawyer is in trouble over it, as well. One wishes that had happened here in the states when the same case came up; the case in England would never have been brought.

The ideals we all grew up with would be served best if the next time someone goes to court to sue both Nabisco and Ford, because neither company warned him that Jell-O was not a suitable substitute for motor oil, the judge quickly throws out the case and recommends that the plaintiff avoid any pyramid investment opportunities, stairs of over three steps, yard implements, and most kitchen utensils, and many small farm animals.

A certain amount of common sense is necessary to survive in this world. Unless of course you have a jury filled with your peers… IE: Fellow idiots, willing to pay someone else’s money to help you along.

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