Monday, October 13, 2014

Assumption of the Risk

For someone who once aced a class called "Products Liability," I have a surprisingly cavalier attitude toward warning labels. For example, one of my worst problem areas eczema-wise is my eyelids. As it turns out, I like to be able to open my eyes and prefer my eyelids not to feel like they've just been doused in fire accelerant and set ablaze. Therefore, I routinely ignore the words "Not for Opthalmic Use" on my topical steroid ointment and smear it all over my eyelids every chance I get. Similarly, I've noticed that many prescription medication labels bear the following statement: "Warning: Invitation: alcohol may increase the effects of this medication. Do not mix with alcohol." (Edits mine). Of course, nowhere are these warnings more prevalent than on children's toys, and we can thank lawyers for that. We can also thank lawyers for coining a term to describe the act of ignoring these warnings: "Assumption of the Risk." 

Depending on your perspective, "Assumption of the Risk" can loosely be translated either as "Doing Something That Will Kill You Now" or "Ignoring the Obvious Because You're Not Actually Going to Sue Matel if You Find the Pink Plastic Kitty from the Littlest Pet Shop in Your Kid's Diaper Tomorrow." I prefer the latter interpretation. The warning "small parts: not for children under three" doesn't necessarily put me in fear of a choking hazard. Rather, my first thought when I see those words is a passing curiosity about what those "small parts" will feel like when I step on them really really hard in the middle of the night. I had this thought as recently as last summer. I was supervising (yes, supervising) my kids playing on the deck in make-shift "hot tubs" forged from empty gravel buckets. 

Yes, yes, I know. There's a worrisome logo of a baby diving headfirst into the bucket and drowning (see below). But seriously, how dumb and negligent do you have to be to let that happen? Probably as dumb and negligent as me. So all I can say is it's a good thing my kids aren't babies anymore. No, my kids are old enough to know better than to dive head first into a bucket full of water. Not an empty bucket, mind you, or an empty garbage can either. But one full of water or containing "even a small amount of liquid?" Most definitely. To quote my Products Liability professor: "At a certain point, you can't learn everything you need to know in life from the back of a peanut butter jar." Amen, and pass the Skippy.

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