Could a customer sue me if they claimed a fire was caused by my product?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Could a customer sue me if they claimed a fire was caused by my product?

I’m an artist sole proprietorship and I want to make some unique natural-stone incense stick burner/holders to offer in my online shop. Being made completely with natural stone, grout, and epoxy, they are not flammable. They lay flat on a surface and hold the stick in such a way that it could not fall off of the burner accidentally. However, if placed haphazardly on an unsteady surface or in a location where a child’s hand or a dogs tail might knock it over, I can see the very slim possibility where a fire might occur though it seems extremely slim. I’m wondering if a customer could sue me if this were to happen?

Asked on February 4, 2019 under Business Law, Tennessee


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Legally, you would only be liable (i.e. responsible for the damage or fire) if there was something unsafe or defective in how you designed or made the burner/holder (or in your instructions for use) which led or contributed to the fire. You are not legally liable for the customer's misuse of the item or carelessness. That does not mean that someone might not try to sue you, since the courts don't "prescreen" lawsuits before they are filed, to see if they are valid, but you should have a good defense so long as the fire was not your or your product's fault.
A good idea, by the way, would be to set up an LLC to conduct your business, to protect you from any possible personal liability.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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