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product liability

updated mon 20 sep 10


John Baymore on fri 9 may 97

Pasted comments are from a couple of posts.............

....Other than verbal instruction, and a little flyer included with
the pot
sold, is there anything else that could be done to insure safe use later?

The product information supplied with the piece is a good start, and very,
very cheap insurance.

Yes, there is further you can go. Simply put, the piece really has to
"WORK". You have to make sure that the product is suited for the uses
that a "typical consumer" would expect that product to fulfill. In a
sense, it is not "going further" ....... it is the minimum you need to go.

That is the "yardstick" that your work is held to legally. In this, we are
no different than GE, IBM, and Ford. A "jury of the harmed consumer's
peers" will be the final deciding group that will figure out if your piece
functioned as "expected". If you are really unlucky, the Consumer Product
Safety Commission or the FDA might be involved (they DO have jurisdiction
in this stuff). And a sharp plaintiff's lawyer will be trying to
influence them that it did NOT! (You'll have to hire an even sharper one

Your product's consumer is not really expected to be required to have a
"special education" to "correctly use" something like a mug. Pottery for
day-to-day use is not expected to be a "technical" product. Life
experiences would be the probable "yardstick" in judging such proper
understanding of how to use a mug. If the mug you produce is unique in
some way that makes special "unusual", and "exceptional" preparation
necessary in order to use it safely, then I think you have a real potential
legal problem brewing!

Picture yourself getting into a car you borrowed from a friend. You strap
yourself in with the seatbelt, check the poistion of all the switches and
guages, adjust the seat, and turn the key. The engine blows up!!!!
Oh....... you didn't know that with THIS particular car's engine that you
has to turn on the special carb heater for a few minutes to keep it from
exploding???? Yes...... that fact is clearly stated in the book in the
glove compartment. In BOLD type. But would you be reasonably expected to
read that book before starting the car to run to the 7-11?

So basically this comes down to the fact that if work is at all functional,
it has to function as "someone other than a potter" would expect it to.
That means doing the ("oh god, no!!!!") technical homework to make sure the
product is safe in ALL possible expected (and maybe pushing that word
"expected" a bit) consumer uses.
If in some way a piece doesn't fit this, it probably should bear a
PERMANANT label on the bottom stating that it is for decorative purposes
only. That designation on the piece would be a good line of defense in a
legal sense, even if the piece "looked like a mug", and shattered when hot
water was poured in it. And I would STRONGLY suggest that anyone producing
vessels for sale to the public purchase product liability insurance.

As of this time, incidences of suits against potters and other craftspeople
are pretty rare......... but they DO happen. You certainly don't want to
"lose the house" if a $15.00 mug scalds someone. And replacing someone's
$$$$ antique table is not a pretty choice either. This infrequency is
actually great for us....... because of this, product liability insurance
for a potter is pretty cheap. I have $2 million in coverage for that and
other aspects of business liability, and it costs me only about $450 per
year. If anyone wants info on the source, e-mail me.

BTW..... I am NOT suggesting here that it is OK to produce products that
might harm someone and just C.Y.A. with insurance and say "what the %$#@"
to yourself. We also have a moral obligation to people not to harm them.

........ If you give adequate disclaimers and instructions in
writing to the original buyer/user, I believe that you are not responsible
for what happens when the work is subsequently re-sold. .......

Nope....... you are responsible for the product for the life of the
product, no matter how many times it is sold and resold. If you were the
25th owner of an auto that was determined "defective" by some governing
body, you would still be entitled to restitution in the case of harm. If
some prior owner modified your product before it was re-sold, then you
might have some recourse in that area.

............ We have to assume a certain amount of common sense
on the part of subsequent users. .........

Yes, sort of, but it is really pretty basic. Goes to the "lowest common
denominator" of intellegence, so to speak . And it is not defined in
any detail in this type of case, unless there is SPECIFIC legal precedence
already set. So it is really case by case. The CPSC is a good resource
for information on this stuff in general. You had better really think
about what that "common sense" is probably going to be.

......And if they do not show that degree of common sense, what,
after all, are we talking about in terms of worse case scenario?? .......

Worst case scenario would be that someone is hurt in some way! In any way.
Just after that in significance would be that someone had something
damaged. Neither case is very nice.

Possibly also involved in this is some monetary loss to the potter.
Certainly involved is the bad "word of mouth" that the potter's business
would receive (as anyone who has had customer service training would be
VERY familiar with).

I've had my share of shattering teapots, mugs, and the like show up in
testing over the years. Even though I am sort of a "tech weenie",
sometimes I haven't been able to track the problem down. It really is
disturbing to have this type of responsibility. And I think of all those
pots I sold right after college when I really didn't have a clue!!!!! Many
potential "smoking guns", I am afraid and ashamed to say. I wish all I had
to worry about was the aesthetic issues . But you also can't let the
lawyers run your life.

Maybe I really ought to move away from any semblence of functional vessel
forms and start pounding on the door of the "ART" realm . Ah........
but I already look at what I do as an art. Besides...... it doesn't really
matter what it is called. The work simply "IS" .

So.......... what the ^%$#.



John Baymore
River Bend Pottery
22 Riverbend Way
Wilton, NH 03086 USA


Bob Reiberg on fri 23 may 97

Does anyone have a line on a company that provides resonable liability
insurance on potters? My main problem is that I sell oil candles and my
company won't touch them. I could be insured if I stopped selling those, but
I don't want to.

A secondary problem is that AOL is not delivering my clayart postings so if
anyone has a suggestion you would have to reach me at my personal e-mail

Bob Reiberg

paul wilmoth on thu 12 mar 98

Hello All,

I know that this issue was touched upon a few months ago, but I deleted
the relevant files pertaining to this.

Does anyone have product liability insurance that they are "happy" with?
If you do would you please e-mail me the company , price and coverage, I
will greatly appreciate the information.

I asked my agent and he said that my product was not eligible though the


Paul Wilmoth

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Deborah Thuman on sun 19 sep 10

Yes, I'm an attorney, but I'm a criminal defense attorney so product
liability is not my best subject.

However, if you have a helper in your studio, you better have worker's
compensation. If not.... you just self insured against her/his
injuries incurred while working. You don't want to do that. Just a few
stitches in a finger can cost several hundred dollars. You don't want
to know what a real injury costs.

If you are making decent products, I doubt you need product liability
insurance - but talk to a product liability attorney to be sure.

If you are having the public come into your studio - to buy, to be
taught, whatever.... you will need insurance. Your insurance agent can
you with this. We all know about slip and fall accidents... but what
if your student grabs a tool, uses it wrong and get cut?

Bottom line: insurance is a whole lot cheaper than being sued and
having to pay medical bills.

Deb Thuman

On Sep 19, 2010, at 3:44 PM, Maynard wrote:

> Hey you posted about liability with clay, and below your post a
> lady ask do i need insurance to teach pottery?
> I guess if we make something we probably need product liability
> insurance.
> and if we invite the public into a business, we probably need to
> have some general liability insurance like if they fall on the
> floor or something
> then what about insurace to protect us from a pottery student that
> is harmed from some of the materials in the sutdio. like for
> instance sicocus, or what ever that is the gets in your lungs. or
> some other clay or glaze material that is used in the studio.
> and then we got kilns, and sharp objects. someone could get
> burned on the kiln, or slice a finger or hand if a needle tool
> got left in clay or in a slop bucket.
> what do you think, do we need insurace to teach ceramics in a home
> studio like the lady has asked about?!
> not to mention, if we have a helper, then do we need workmen's
> comp insurace?
> it seems like you must be an attorney, if you took the bar exam in
> multiple states. could you just give a little advise about the
> insuracne issues. it seems to be a silent issue, but it affects
> every clay person that operates outside of schools and institutions.
> how should clay people protect themselves, or should we just igoore
> the issue and hope we never have a problem. we are just working
> with dirt and fire, what could possibly go wrong?
> could you please reply back to me, and i am sure everyone on clay
> art should hear what you got to say, if you are that generous!
> Sincerely
> Maynard Leeman
> ml