We need more warning labels guys!


Jury finds against Ford

October 22, 2005

A Florida jury said Friday that Ford Motor Co. should pay $16.95 million to a 35-year-old woman who was paralyzed when she slid under her seat belt during a collision, her attorney said.

Tami Martin was reclining in the front passenger seat of a 1998 Windstar when it hit another vehicle, injuring her spinal cord, said Robert Langdon, her attorney. He said Ford failed to warn of the dangers of using reclining seats while a vehicle is in motion.

“Ford will warn you when your windshield fluid is low, but they won’t warn you about this,” Langdon said. “Ford’s sales brochure says the seat reclines, making it great on long trips.”

A jury in Jacksonville, Fla., found that Ford didn’t properly warn Martin and was responsible for her injuries.

Ford will appeal and expects the verdict to be reversed, spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes said.

“This was a tragic accident caused when the driver fell asleep at the wheel and drove into a stationary ambulance,” Vokes said in an e-mailed statement. “The air bag deployed as it should have, but the passenger was reclined in her seat with her feet resting on the dashboard.”

she should have sued the ambulence company for parking that ambulence there, and God for making humans need sleep.

Can’t anybody accept the fact that we are all idiots anymore and admit they screwed up instead of sueing somebody for making too hot coffee?

You know, I see their point. Car seats are always advertised as “reclining”. Moreover, I often see passengers feet poking out windows or on dashboards on the highway. Now, intelligent university grads that have a hand in making products (and therefore are required to think about how they maybe used improperly) see the danger of riding like this. We would think, “geez if this car around me stops, my mass will tend to continue in a linear motion forward causing me great injury”. Some of us will say, “ah, what are the chances?” and fling the seat back and others will think better.

Now, a common person that is not at all connected with products and flunked Physics 101, they won’t see this unfortunate Newtonian incident on their horizon. They will think “if I can fling the seat back, it must be safe!”.

I don’t blame Ford for this. It was their car, but this could have been 99.5% of the cars on the road (two seaters often can’t recline far enough). It’s a combination of an under-educated driving public and an industry that doesn’t feel the responsibility to stop people from using their products in dangerous ways.

Think about it: why can we recline those seats all the way? It is not safe to drive like that! There could be a lock placed to prevent this, or a warning light, but there never is. The only reason that their isn’t, is no one has bothered to take that initial step.

I understand that too, because if Ford stopped offering reclining seats, but everyone else did, their sales would be hit. After all, people buy cars for emotional reasons, not logic.

So, what I hope would come out of this, is a new regulation for all automakers to follow. Written properly, it could leave open a wide variety of solutions for the designers.

That’s why I say we need a big fat ugly warning label on the ceiling of the car for idiots to miss.

Sometimes it’s not just ignorant idiots. When I was interning at this powertool company, they had a legal department specially set up to take care of all necessary warning labels. Then a designer who did the nail guns told me that they thought that installing the pressure lock on the head of the nail gun will prevent mis-firing. Well no, the guys on jobsites wants efficiency, so they use wire to tie the lock in the open position. When jobsite inspectors come, the simply release it.

And my teacher always uses the case scenario of the idiot who used his lawn mower as brush trimmer…

I think idiots are more of a threat to national security then terrorists.

Never underestimate the predictability of stupidity.

Hmm… How about a mechanized mallet that strikes the passenger when they make a mistake? As long as there is a warning label that indicates that this will happen, it is legal, right?

I think warning labels should be used as little as possible. There are at least a hundred potential designs that would either block the user from reclining while the car is running or alert them to the potential danger. I mean, if we had to label everything dangerous in a car, they would have to be big labels:


My point was, so many people ride reclined, there is a gap between user knowledge and functionality of the product.

The problem is that in the US, product liability is pretty clear. If a mfg puts a flaw into the product, they are liable for it, however it gets there.
It could be a design error (solid steering wheel), the potential for misuse (cleaning blades while lawnmower running) or even intentional (radar detector). All cars now have collapsible steering wheels to prevent a driver being speared. Lawnmowers come with lockouts that prevent their use when both hands are off the handle. And radar detectors come with disclaimers that recommend users obey all laws and regulations.

We have a it bit easier in Canada. Jurisprudence based on common law help to protect mfgs from frivolous lawsuits, especially the kind where an obviously dangerous practice was not specifically warned against. That is, except maybe in Quebec, where civil law forms the legal backbone.


“So, what I hope would come out of this, is a new regulation for all automakers to follow”

Ugh! You’ve got to be kidding. That’s just what we need. More beaurocrats and more laws to encourage people to think less. Where does that end? People scurrying to use the government as their personal nanny, or worse, their personal hammer are more of a threat to national security then terrorists or idiots.

There will be more deaths and injuries from this until automakers change. The manufacturers won’t change on their own, because they know any change could damage their competiveness. A regulation will level the field by requiring all the makes to change.

A similar situation is with security at US chemical plants. Those manufacturers have actually asked the government to pass basic security regulations, but the government refuses. Each company knows that if they are the only one to implement a decent policy, it will hurt their company. If they are all required, the playing field is level.

It sounds whacky, but I’ve heard several industries pushing for more regulations.

As another example of what I was talking about in regards to regulation:

Although Wal-Mart said that they ‘almost always’ pay better, let’s face it, the guy is saying he can’t raise wages on his own, his company will be hurt. If all of the low-wage sweat shops rise at once, competition is not effected.

Don’t tell me Wal-mart is out in front of designers on this debate!

From the article, my favorite line:

“But it said the group could easily afford to do more.”

I’d like to hear why they should do more. It’s no one’s business what they can or cannot afford to do. I’d like to know why the company has to abide by some third party’s personal code of morality. The employer and the employees have a mutual, voluntary work agreement. Customers, similarly, voluntarily buy their goods. Should the agreement prove unsatisfactory, the relationship would be terminated. No one has a ‘right’ to a job.

As far as minimum wage is concerned, Econ 101 should shed some light on that folly.


“If they are all required, the playing field is level.”

History has shown time and time again that any external attempt to ‘level the playing field’, and thus hinder the market, results in economic disaster.

warning labels might protect a company from getting sued but they really won’t help with the design.

there’s a lot of room for designing better safty and prevention equipment for cars.

It seems that most safety depts are of the opinion “Products are merely delivery devices for warning labels.”

[quote=“Mr-914”]Now, a common person that is not at all connected with products and flunked Physics 101, they won’t see this unfortunate Newtonian incident on their horizon. They will think “if I can fling the seat back, it must be safe!”.[quote]

I don’t buy this line of thinking. Here are some other things you can do that aren’t necessarily safe:

  • slam your head in the door repeatedly
  • have intercourse with the gas tank feed tube (if you are tall enough)
  • grab a hot exhaust pipe
  • put the vehicle on cruise, climb out the window and steer from the roof

I can do it, it must be safe!!!

Well guest, all of those suggestions, except the last, have an immediate pain associated with them. Therefore, someone might try, but would be immediately discouraged.

Riding with the seat reclined can be done for years and many thousands of miles with no injuries or pain. That’s the difference.

I agree that the public should be warned about reclined seats and reduced safefy - it only makes sense. But you don’t need another warning sticker - just put a page in the owners manual and you are covered, legally.

Automobile manufacturers could do a lot more in general to alert their customers to safe driving practices. I agree that warning stickers are probably not really the answer. Still, if you advertise that a car has luxurious, comfortable seats for long distance driving, you have to consider someone to take it to the extreme. Here is a thought to consider: