Author Topic: General/product Liability I need help from experienced PCB designers/sellers USA  (Read 3228 times)

markeprice

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Hi,  ok, I have been working on a pedal PCB over the last year, the Alembic-like Frog tube preamp PCB.  There is some interest from people here on the forum.  I was concerned about liability if someone hurts themselves or burns their house down while building one of my PCBs or even after.  Of course it does include 185vdc to the plate side of the tube, so you do need to know what you are dealing with.  I need some guidance, names of insurance companies you have used for General Liability/Product liability insurance.  I am willing to take this discussion offline as well.  I am about ready to release the PCB, but am having some trouble finding reasonably priced insurance.  I don't want to lose my home, etc. to provide this PCB to the public, in fact, I am concerned enough, I may not produce the board for sale, which makes me sick considering the amount of time it has taken to get to this point, and, the patience and interest of the people on the forum, that has been created surrounding this unique PCB.  Right now, the rough estimates are probably over 2000 dollars per year.  Any thoughts appreciated.
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Mark Price: owner frogpedals.com

nzCdog

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Maybe get some legal advice pertinent to where you live?  Lots of companies sell tube amps all over the world, there's always an 'entirely at your own risk' disclaimer of some description, and rightly so. 

jkokura

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I'd not do it personally. Or else, you could try and get a signed waiver that's drawn up by a lawyer before you sell to any clients.

Jacob
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juansolo

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All you can do is emphasise that there are big voltages going on in here which will at least hurt a lot (voice of experience) if you are careless and could do damage to you if you poke something you shouldn't whist having your other hand grounded... Basically unless you're comfortable around high voltages, don't build this kit, and don't haunt me if you do something wrong/stupid and die.
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playpunk

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I can't imagine you have any real liability. Seriously. If there was, any of the many, many companies that sell tube amp kits would still be in business. You aren't selling a product, you're selling a PCB, and the buyer/builder is ultimately responsible for the construction.

Think about it for a minute. Companies sell kit airplanes, cars, motorcycles, bicycles, etc. Home depot sells all kinds of dangerous chemicals, tools, etc.

There is a legal doctrine of "assumption of risk" that applies to this, and many similar situations. In short, by engaging in an activity, one assumes the risks inherent in that activity. In a recreational activity involving high voltage electronics, the risks are shock, fire, etc.

If you are feeling very nervous, a strongly worded warning should suffice. If you still feel nervous, why don't you just call the guys at BYOC and talk to them about it.
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EBRAddict

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Just the PCB? Put a disclaimer on the build document.

You will have trouble finding insurance: you're new, you have no formal training or experience in the field, and you're in a very small niche business with little for them to compare against.

markeprice

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Actually, I do have training in basic electronics from Electronics Institute of Technology in Kansas City.....38 years ago.  I have been working on tube amplifiers for the last 10 years...so, not a total noobie.  I'm glad you said that, because I can use that when questioned by the insurance companies!
« Last Edit: June 14, 2016, 03:41:16 PM by markeprice »
Cuz they's made for Giggin!
Mark Price: owner frogpedals.com

gtr2

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I went through this a few years ago, I was going to release a power supply pcb and custom sourced toroidal transformer kit.
I ultimately decided against it.  You need to look into legal advice, not internet forum advice.
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markeprice

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Thanks,  I am still working on the Insurance angle.   And yes, my lawyer friend suggested a general/product liability policy.

Thank you all for your input.

Mark
Cuz they's made for Giggin!
Mark Price: owner frogpedals.com

playpunk

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I am a lawyer. Really, look me up.

I could get into a long explanation about how you are all dramatically overestimating your personal liability, and the chances of success of a products liability lawsuit in this scenario, but I won't. And when it comes to legal advice, just remember that attorneys have differing perspectives on just about everything, and unless your friend is a hobbyist in this area, and is a litigator, he or she might not be the best resource. Not that I'm the best resource, either, as a stranger on a forum, but take it with a grain of salt.

I do recommend an umbrella personal liability insurance policy that exceeds your net worth. This is a cheap solution and can be rolled into your existing auto or homeowners coverage.  I still HIGHLY doubt that (a) a lawsuit could be successful and (b) that you have any real exposure, but go ahead and buy one for your peace of mind. See: http://www.iii.org/article/should-i-purchase-umbrella-liability-policy-0. There's a chance you're underinsured anyways, if you have any real wealth to protect.

And josh, that power supply project sounds sweet. I think you should revisit it.
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playpunk

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I also suggest reading the law review article linked here: http://machinedesign.com/blog/3d-printing-may-end-product-liability-suits

Product liability is an extremely difficult area of litigation for plaintiffs.

I'll just say one more thing then shut up - Lawyers are (generally) trying to make money in their practice. The best way to avoid getting sued is to have no money - McDonald's gets sued because it is a "deep pocket defendant," but your local coffee shop doesn't get sued because they have no money, and limited insurance. If the PCB seller has normal assets, almost all of your assets are protected from being executed on (at least in new york state.) Further, if you are a party to a lawsuit that you ultimately lose, you have bankruptcy protection to fall back on as well, which protects your personal assets.

I don't know how many times I have to say this, but I think you are dramatically overstating your exposure.
"my legend grows" - playpunk

markeprice

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I do appreciate your input playpunk, and thanks for providing additional things to discuss with my lawyer friend
Cuz they's made for Giggin!
Mark Price: owner frogpedals.com

culturejam

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Great input, playpunk.

I don't know how many times I have to say this, but I think you are dramatically overstating your exposure.

I do have a question though, since you're an attorney: What if the assembled PCB, if assembled as intended/directed by the seller, causes some kind of damage? In other words, if the project itself has a major flaw in it that leads to injury or damage, does that change the scope of liability at all?

playpunk

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If there was a design error, there would probably be some elevated liability. It would still be difficult to prove (most likely) and there is a HUGE "assumption of the risk" argument to make as a defense here too - basically that the hobbyist assumes the risk of the recreational activity and its inherent dangers.

This argument is how ski resorts stay in business.
"my legend grows" - playpunk

culturejam

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Good points. Thanks!