And the Wacky Warning Award Goes To…

Off-road commode wins "Wacky Warning Labels" contest

Thursday, Apr 30, 2009  |  Updated 9:45 AM EDT
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Got to go? Pull over first.

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Itching to use "The Original Off-Road Commode," a toilet seat that attaches to the back of your vehicle?

Stop driving first, warns the product's makers, taking first place in an annual contest recognizing silly warning labels.

The "Wacky Warning Labels" contest, which announced its winners Wednesday, is intended to show how frivolous lawsuits distort the U.S. civil justice system, said organizer Bob Dorigo Jones.

Steve Shiflett of Hampton, Ga., won $500 for submitting the toilet seat, which is "not for use on moving vehicles," according to its packaging.

The commode's makers are "very pleased" with the recognition, said Mike Willis, president of national sales for Wylie-based Convenient Sports International, which has sold the toilet seat for five years.

The label was introduced about two years ago after someone was spotted with a seat modified to lock into a trailer hitch, he said, "so it was a concern because, 'What if, what if?"'

Taking second place in the contest was an instruction guide for a wart-removal product.

"Do not use if you cannot see clearly to read the information in the information booklet," won Daniel Berganini of Fridley, Minn., a prize of $250.

A cereal bowl warning, "Always use this product with adult supervision," won third place, tied with a bag of livestock castration rings cautioning, "For animal use only." Michael Leonard of Yarmouth, Maine, and Freddy Krieger of Baroda, Mich., each won $100.

"Do not eat the LCD panel," warns a label on a 1-by-4-inch LCD screen, a finalist submitted by David Almcrantz of Goleta, Calif.

Past winners include a small tractor that cautioned "Danger: Avoid Death," and a warning not to put people inside a washing machine.

The contest, now in its 12th year and sponsored this year by the Foundation for Fair Civil Justice, has a serious edge, said Dorigo Jones, of Novi, Mich.

"We want to expose how the American civil justice system is out of whack, and this contest allows us to use humor as a hook to start an important debate over how much consumers and families spend because of frivolous lawsuits, how much more they spend on everything from medicine to automobiles," he said.

But a critic says the contest itself is frivolous.

"With all the problems in the country today -- the economic meltdown, two wars, swine flu -- what's ridiculous is that a group thinks this is an important issue to be covering," said Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the New York-based Center for Justice & Democracy, which defends the civil justice system.

"The fact is that warning labels do save many lives, and our country would be suffering quite a bit more without them," she said.

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