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

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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

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 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.


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