Should Manufacturers be Sued for Failing to Warn About Non-Serious Issues?

Date: August 18, 2015

As compared to many parts of the country, Ohio is generally viewed as a business-friendly state. But the Ohio Supreme Court is currently considering whether Ohio regulations should be interpreted as imposing a duty on manufacturers to warn consumers about all post-purchase safety improvements—regardless of whether the original product design was defective, and regardless of whether the change is trivial or serious. That’s simply bizarre, right?

As NFIB Small Business Legal Center, and other business groups, pointed out in a U.S. Chamber coalition brief, it would be absurd to interpret Ohio’s regulatory scheme as imposing a duty more onerous and burdensome than is required by any other state in the country. Of course it makes sense to require manufacturers to notify consumers about truly serious product defects that pose significant risks to the public. But if Ohio manufactures are required to begin issuing warning to consumers every time they come up with a new and improved safety feature, the result would be to affirmatively discourage businesses from developing enhanced safety features.

This would also have the unfortunate effect of flooding consumers with warnings about unimportant matters, which would make it harder for folks to recognize when a warning is truly important. On top of all that, it would be prohibitively expensive for businesses to send out “warnings” on non-serious matters. And that would truly hurt Ohio’s business-friendly reputation. For all of these reasons, the Ohio Supreme Court should make clear that manufacturers are required only to give warnings over truly dangerous product defects—not trivial changes in product designs.

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