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July 13, 2004 12:01 AM

Broken: Garage door warning label

gd_door1gd_door2Ebtinger writes:

This garage door manufactured by "Overhead door Indiana" is lifted by two springs that pull on a cable. The cable is attached to the lower wheel. Unscrewing this wheel will release the calbe like a whip, and bring you to the ER to get stitches, as I just experienced the hard way, because the warning label that tells you where the cable is attached is hidden BEHIND the wheel attachment! Of course, between the time you undo the srew and the time the cable is released, you have about 0.3 milliseconds to read the label....


I'm sorry, but a little common sense goes a long way. Did you actually *look* at the device before you decided to take it apart? It seems that a cable under tension would be immediately obvious. I agree that the manufacturer should move the warning label, but *you* have to take some responsibility as well for not taking the time to understand the thing you were attempting to dismantle.

Posted by: Bob at July 13, 2004 01:07 AM

I disagree with bob. A warning label should be a warning, not salt rubbed into a wound. It should be visible, not hidden.

Posted by: kwyjibo at July 13, 2004 07:58 AM

That really looks to me like a bad decision by the installer. I really can't imagine that Overhead Door Indiana intentionally put a warning label in a location they knew would be covered by a steel plate in normal operation.

Posted by: Chaz Larson at July 13, 2004 10:24 AM

I too agree with kwyjibo (and disagree with Bob). Warning lables should be there to inform and protect, not to antagonize someone after the fact.

Posted by: Kevin at July 13, 2004 10:45 AM

Messing with springs is always a bit iffy, and predicting what will happen is not always easy for the layperson, so only I partly agree with Bob (spring dynamics/physics is not, after all, "common" sense among lay-people). The warning is totally inappropriate - so I'd reckon it's time to call a lawyer.

Posted by: Chris Law at July 13, 2004 01:19 PM

The warning label is there because this is something reasonable, rational, intelligent people are capable of doing. Thus, a label saying 'this is a bad idea' is all that's required to save a lot of headaches all round.

As to why it's hidden... my guess would be that the door is automatically assembled and the label-placing device is aligned about three inches too low. Someone checked to make sure the labels were being put on the door, and further down the line someone checked to make sure that the wheel mount was being properly attached, but nobody checked the entire process as a whole.

Posted by: scott at July 13, 2004 02:46 PM

What is common sense for you or me or bob is not common sense for someone else. I would not have done that, but I can think of a few people I know who would have. It's not that they lack 'common sense'... they're just not as 'mechanically literate'. I'm sure we all know people like that. Place the blame where it belongs.

Posted by: david at July 14, 2004 02:44 PM

I'm staggered by the lack of apparent intelligence displayed in some of the above comments... it doesn't matter one tiny bit why the label is in the wrong place, who put it there or whether the unfortunate victim is a nuclear physicist or your grandmother's hairdresser: the warning label is a) necessary and b) should be visible. Period.

This from the country where McDonalds was successfully sued for failing to warn a scalded customer that her coffee would be hot....jeez!

Posted by: Jeremy at July 14, 2004 03:58 PM

Jeremy, you may want to read this webpage:

It discusses the coffee case, and gives *all* the facts, not just the soundbites you heard on the news. A quote:

# Stella was not driving when she pulled the lid off her scalding McDonald's coffee. Her grandson was driving the car, and he had pulled over to stop so she could add cream and sugar to the cup.

# Stella was burned badly (some sources say six percent of her skin was burned, other sources say 16 percent was) and needed two years of treatment and rehabilitation, including skin grafts. McDonald's refused an offer to settle with her for $20,000 in medical costs.

# McDonald's quality control managers specified that its coffee should be served at 180-190 degrees Fahrenheit. Liquids at that temperature can cause third-degree burns in 2-7 seconds. Such burns require skin grafting, debridement and whirlpool treatments to heal, and the resulting scarring is typically permanent.

# From 1982 to 1992, McDonald's coffee burned more than 700 people, usually slightly but sometimes seriously, resulting in some number of other claims and lawsuits.

# Witnesses for McDonald's admitted in court that consumers are unaware of the extent of the risk of serious burns from spilled coffee served at McDonald's required temperature, admitted that it did not warn customers of this risk, could offer no explanation as to why it did not, and testified that it did not intend to turn down the heat even though it admitted that its coffee is "not fit for consumption" when sold because it is too hot.

# While Stella was awarded $200,000 in compensatory damages, this amount was reduced by 20 percent (to $160,000) because the jury found her 20 percent at fault. Where did the rest of the $2.9 million figure in? She was awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages -- but the judge later reduced that amount to $480,000, or three times the "actual" damages that were awarded.

Posted by: James Schend at July 14, 2004 05:53 PM

Was there a label on the cover indicating that only a trained technician may dismentle the unit 8-)

Posted by: Ngoni at July 15, 2004 06:01 AM

OK. Mcdonalds lady was just stupid keeping her coffee between her legs trying to put sugar in it while someone else was driving. This wasn't her first time ever buying coffee at Mcdonalds. Everyone knows how hot it is but they just don't think. As for the garage don't be stupid again. Ngoni made the point. If you don't know what your doing then don't touch it!!!!

Posted by: Jason at July 16, 2004 01:49 AM

And now a trip back to the original discussion.

Is it possible that the sign was intended for the installer or placed by a nonprofessional installer?

Posted by: Nathan Hughes at July 16, 2004 06:37 PM

So, you "non-lay person" types out there have never taken apart something with ball bearings and said, "Oh sh__" as the loose ball bearings go rolling away?! You've never had the pleasure of knowing why a clip ring is called a jesus clip? Not everyone is mechanically inclined and not everyone, including those who are so inclined, realize the amount of force loaded in garage door springs.

Bottom line, as Jeremy said, the label should be clearly visible. I can take apart a million dollar machine and not have one problem.... if only my credit card had a warning label! LOL... we all have our talents. That doesn't make someone an idiot because they aren't a jack of all trades.

Somebody obviously screwed up here... why put a warning label where it is not visible?! SOMEONE PUT A WARNING LABEL BEHIND A BRACKET IT WAS INTENDED TO WARN AGAINST!!! Imagine you eat a fortune cookie and the fortune is "this cookie is not edible". BROKEN!!!

Posted by: duh at August 29, 2004 05:02 AM

How convenient that you left out the following, James. Don't really care about the case, either way. Just don't pick what supports your view and ignore the other facts. Hot coffee... inner thigh... pain... I think after 80 something years on this planet, she might have learned that long before spilling a cup of McDonald's coffee in her lap. Maybe I can sue Newton for gravity when I fall on my *** during an ice storm...

Taken from the same article:

"The plaintiffs were apparently able to document 700 cases of burns from McDonald's coffee over 10 years, or 70 burns per year. But that doesn't take into account how many cups are sold without incident. A McDonald's consultant pointed out the 700 cases in 10 years represents just 1 injury per 24 million cups sold! For every injury, no matter how severe, 23,999,999 people managed to drink their coffee without any injury whatever. Isn't that proof that the coffee is not "unreasonably dangerous"?

Even in the eyes of an obviously sympathetic jury, Stella was judged to be 20 percent at fault -- she did, after all, spill the coffee into her lap all by herself. The car was stopped, so she presumably was not bumped to cause the spill. Indeed she chose to hold the coffee cup between her knees instead of any number of safer locations as she opened it. Should she have taken more responsibility for her own actions?


Here's the Kicker: Coffee is supposed to be served in the range of 185 degrees! The National Coffee Association recommends coffee be brewed at "between 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal extraction" and drunk "immediately". If not drunk immediately, it should be "maintained at 180-185 degrees Fahrenheit". (Source: NCAUSA.) Exactly what, then, did McDonald's do wrong? Did it exhibit "willful, wanton, reckless or malicious conduct" -- the standard in New Mexico for awarding punitive damages? "

Posted by: duh at August 29, 2004 05:18 AM

Cigarette lighters now have a warning label stating "Do not light near face"...makes lighting the cigarette more challenging and decreaeses smoking, I suppose.

This is just another example of people expecting to be warned when about to do something stupid. If the cable had whipped him in the gonads we would have been reading this at darwin awards.

Reminds me of the cartoon of the guy leaning over a branch and plucking off the remaining leaf, and the limb smashing him in the face. "If you don't know what it does, don't mess with it!"

Posted by: Please stop me at October 5, 2004 05:35 PM

P.S.- The flaw isn't label placement, the flaw is in a design that won't let you remove the wheel independently of the cable.

Posted by: Please stop me at October 5, 2004 05:38 PM

I live and work in Indiana, and I've dealt personally with several of these doors. As a matter of fact, I live within 25 miles of the company that makes and services them. Read: "services" them. It should be assumed that when you're dealing with any form of overhead door that extreme caution should be used to avoid an injury from a spring or cable you may have loosed. It's best to leave such tasks to the professionals who know and service these devices on a daily basis.

On the other hand, it is very important that such things be labeled for people who aren't capable of such observations. As a wise person once told me: "For every warning label there are at least two people out there who have tried it."

Posted by: Taigitsune at January 29, 2005 07:42 PM

WOW - I can't believe I live in a country where there are apparently 70 or so people a year too stupid to be left unattended with a cup of hot coffee but there are people who's lives exist to track those stats.

or that I actually wasted my time reading it all and making this comment,,, for that matter.

now THAT's broke!!!

and I'm off to the beach

Posted by: imnotright at May 3, 2005 05:55 PM

are you people phuckin' nuts? take hammer smash hand feel pain, take knife, slice 'em balls, no have 'um kids, my suggestion.

Posted by: michael at May 23, 2005 11:34 PM


can you spell?

Posted by: misterx at August 7, 2005 07:12 PM

The decision to place the warning label in that spot certainly argues against intelligent design.

Maybe it's just another case of evolution in action.

Happy motoring...

Posted by: Uncle Pavian at December 3, 2005 01:48 PM

I am a garage door service tech, in indiana. These warning labels are packaged separetly in the hardware box, and placed on the door section during installation. If the installer had been trained correctly (or read installation instructions) placement of the warning labels are clearly drawn out. The only people to blame are the original installer(either it be done by a pro or a do-it-yourselfer), the company who employed the installer (if applicable), and the person who shouldnt be playing with things in the garage (like tools). So, if you are able to prove that the door was installed by a company and not a do-it-yourselfer you may have a slight chance to go to court to make 20% of $200.00 (cost of stitches at the most) cause I am sure you were 80% at fault for removing the bottom braket. I hope that americans can stop blaming everybody else for thier screw ups! If we would all act like men, we could admit when WE did something stupid and learn from it rather than try to profit from it financially.

Posted by: Bob at February 20, 2006 04:04 AM

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