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Adequacy of Warning Label for Jury to Decide
Description A twenty-year old died from intentionally sniffing butane despite a warning against inhalation written on the container. Appeals court held it was for jury to decide if the warning label was adequate in terms of content and prominent placement of the warning to determine liability of the manufacturer.
Topic Torts
Key Words Products Liability
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Stephen Pavlik, age 20, died as a result of self-administered butane inhalation while attempting to "get high." His estate sued Lane, maker of Zeus brand butane fuel, a product sold in 5.3 ounce cans as fuel for cigarette lighters. The relevant warning, printed on the back of the can, reads "DO NOT BREATHE SPRAY." Plaintiff contends that the can is defective because the warning inadequately warns users of the extreme hazards of butane inhalation. District court held that Pavlik was aware of the danger, so the warning was adequate, or even if it was not, it would have made no difference, so there was no proximate cause. The estate appealed.
Decision Reversed. The finder of fact must consider what did occur and what might have occured. Pavlik's mother had told him not to inhale butane, but that, and the warning label, are not necessarily conclusive that Pavlik was fully aware of the risk of bodily injury posed by butane inhalation. Hence, there is a material issue for a jury to determine. A producer may be liable for failure to adequately warn where its warning is not prominent, and not calculated to attract the user's attention to the true nature of the danger due to its position, size, or coloring of its lettering.
Citation Pavlik v. Lane Limited, ---F.3d--- (1998 WL 40655, 3rd Cir.)
135 F.3d 876 (3rd Cir., 1998)

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