Smiley & Smiley, LLP

Do warning labels belong on tanning beds?

Some products are inherently dangerous. They are only considered to be dangerous and defective for legal purposes if they do not function as intended. For example, someone could not generally sue the manufacturer of chain saws for a chain saw injury unless the inherently dangerous product was somehow defective or did not perform as it was intended to. However, consumer protections against unintentionally dangerous or defective goods are deeply rooted in the legal concept of product liability.

So how are consumers to respond when a product is not inherently dangerous but could possibly cause them significant harm even when it functions as intended? This is the question that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently contemplated with regards to tanning beds. These devices are not inherently dangerous like knives, saws and bleach. However, they can ultimately cause cancer simply by functioning as they were designed to.

In the wake of mounting lawsuits against tanning bed manufacturers, salons and even nail salons who utilize UV rays, the FDA has proposed mandatory warning labels for tanning beds. These labels would indicate that users should seek regular cancer screenings and that minor children should avoid these devices altogether. In addition, the FDA has proposed that tanning beds be reclassified as Class II medical devices in order to better reflect the harm that they can cause consumers.

Ultimately, consumers harmed by tanning beds must educate themselves about any legal remedies available to them and seek counsel if they have questions. But moving forward, the FDA will be at minimum warning consumers about the dangers that greet them if they choose to expose themselves to the high levels of hazardous UV rays present in every operational tanning bed.

Source: MedPageToday, “FDA: Tanning Beds Need Cancer Warning Label,” John Gerver, May 7, 2013

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