CHARLESTON –- A statewide legal reform group is offering an $808 "lawsuit tax" prize for the most outrageous warning label.
West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse is sponsoring the contest. The West Virginian who submits the wackiest warning label will win the prize.
Richie Heath, executive director of WV CALA, said the purpose of the contest is to highlight how frivolous lawsuits -- and the fear of potential frivolous lawsuits -- can lead to silly warning labels as well as increase the cost of common consumer products.
"As our society has become more litigious, we've seen a proliferation of warning labels on all sorts of everyday products," Heath said. "These warning labels often describe such outrageous product uses that they might appear to be a joke.
"But there is a serious side to our contest. Usually the only reason for the labels is a fear of litigation. These labels demonstrate how lawsuits can touch every part of our lives and affect how much we pay for everyday products."
Heath said a few examples are:
* Several manufacturers of hair dryers have found it necessary to warn users - "do not use while sleeping."
* The print on a shoebox containing slippers made by Hush Puppies warns - "Do not eat."
* California Super Lotto tickets advertised - "Do not iron."
* The instructions for a popular children's scooter points out the obvious - "This product moves when used."
Heath said he hopes the contest will educate citizens on the impact lawsuits can have because, according to the latest study by Towers Watson, the United States lawsuit and liability system cost $248.1 billion in 2009. That translates to a cost of $808 per person. Heath said much of these lawsuit costs are passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices on goods and services.
Anyone can participate by sending WV CALA the wackiest warning label that they can find. Entries can be submitted to WV CALA by e-mail at email@example.com, or online by sending submissions to WV CALA on twitter (www.twitter.com/wvcala) or facebook (www.facebook.com/wvcala).
The winner will be announced on tax day, April 15, and will receive an $808 "lawsuit tax" refund.
For more information about WV CALA, visit www.wvcala.com.