Peligro!: Failure to Warn of a Product's Inherent Risk in Spanish Should Constitute a Product Defect
28 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2008
Date Written: August 27, 2008
The genesis of this article lies in a simple realization I had one day while driving behind a work vehicle in Atlanta, Georgia. The truck in question was pulling a wood chipper, a device which takes large tree branches, runs them through rapidly turning sharpened steel blades, and chips them into pieces small enough to be used as mulch. Obviously, any worker's body part accidentally sucked into this maelstrom would undergo a similar fate. Thus, the chipper had a warning label urging caution and instructing workers to avoid putting their hands into the device while it was operating. However, the warning was in English and only English. I realized that day there was a very good chance that some of the workers operating the chipper could not read English.
There has been a surprisingly small number of cases arguing that, where a warning label is required, an English-only warning label is sufficient. In this article I argue that warning labels should be in both English and Spanish at least where (i) the product is sold or used in a geographic area of dense Hispanic population; (ii) the product has been marketed toward Hispanics, such as on Spanish-language cable television or (iii) the product is used in an industry with a large percentage of Hispanic workers, such as the migrant farm industry.
Keywords: Spanish, product liability, Peligro
JEL Classification: K13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation