DETROIT — A toilet seat that can be attached to a trailer hitch has gained national recognition — for a warning label that says you’d better not use it while the vehicle is moving.
Organizers of the “Wacky Warning Labels” contest say “The Original Off-Road Commode” is this year’s winner.
The contest, now in its 12th year, is intended to highlight claims that frivolous lawsuits have distorted the U.S. civil justice system.
Steve Shiflett of Georgia won $500 for submitting the toilet seat’s warning that it’s “not for use on moving vehicles.”
Hunters are a chief target audience for the toilet seat, which is sold by Wylie, Texas-based Convenient Sports International.
The company is “very pleased” with the recognition, said Mike Willis, president of national sales.
The seat is not designed to lock onto a trailer hitch.
Company officials added the warning about two years ago after learning that at least one consumer had modified their product and was driving around with it on the back of his vehicle.
“It was a concern because, ’What if, what if?”’ Willis said.
Daniel Berganini of Minnesota won the second-place prize of $250 for a line in a wart-removal product’s instruction guide that is unlikely to reach its targeted audience: “Do not use if you cannot see clearly to read the information in the information booklet.”
Third place was a tie between a cereal bowl warning, “Always use this product with adult supervision,” and a bag of livestock castration rings cautioning, “For animal use only.” Michael Leonard of Maine, and Freddy Krieger of Michigan, each won $100.
“Do not eat the LCD panel,” warns a label on a tiny LCD screen, a finalist submitted by David Almcrantz of California.
Past winners include a small tractor that cautioned “Danger: Avoid Death,” and a warning not to put people inside a washing machine.
The contest, sponsored this year by the Foundation for Fair Civil Justice, has a serious edge, said organizer Bob 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 humour 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.
“The fact is that warning labels do save many lives, and our country would be suffering quite a bit more without them,” said Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the New York-based Center for Justice & Democracy.