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Thread: Possible legal issues with custom made baby fence

  1. #1
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    Possible legal issues with custom made baby fence

    A client has asked me to design and build a lot of fences to protect their baby from hurting himself on stairways in their house. They want the fences to be beautiful, and sympathetic to the house interior.

    Their house is big, and there are about 8 places they need fences, ranging from 3' to 18' spans.

    The floors and stairs are covered in hard modern tile, so they do need the fences, and I would love the income from the job.

    But my wife is concerned that if anything goes wrong and someone is injured that we could be the target of a zealous lawyer.

    For what it's worth I am licensed, bonded and insured for millwork and cabinetry in California.

    Would you take this job?

  2. #2
    Put on bill of sale... Dog barrier.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gibney View Post
    A client has asked me to design and build a lot of fences to protect their baby from hurting himself on stairways in their house. They want the fences to be beautiful, and sympathetic to the house interior.

    Their house is big, and there are about 8 places they need fences, ranging from 3' to 18' spans.

    The floors and stairs are covered in hard modern tile, so they do need the fences, and I would love the income from the job.

    But my wife is concerned that if anything goes wrong and someone is injured that we could be the target of a zealous lawyer.

    For what it's worth I am licensed, bonded and insured for millwork and cabinetry in California.

    Would you take this job?

    No, I personally would not, unless I had obtained legal advice upfront.
    Your wife is correct. The liability could be huge, no matter what you call it on a bill of sale.
    "The first thing you need to know, will likely be the last thing you learn." (Unknown)

  4. #4
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    I would pass. Unfortunately, just the day and age we live in.

    There is a product to put over cribs to keep the child from climbing out and falling. It was done for safety. Turns out some of them were tangled in it and strangled. And that was a reputable child safety design company.

    I worked in consumer products for a few years. Every time something went wrong, customer sued. And many times it was blatant customer behavior that caused the problem but they just wanted a payout or to blame a company for their stupidity. One time they claimed a printer malfunction burned the house down. Investigation of the rubble discovered a foil candle bottom - the candle was put on top of the printer and it burned down and started a bigger fire. But the customer went after the printer company. These stories are many and go on and on.

    Everything is fine until it isnt.

    If you really want the work, you may be able to take the approach of being simply the 'fabricator'. That is, someone else has to do the design and get it approved and signed off on by building inspector (or some official reviewing body stating the design is valid). You then simply fabricate to the print. Any design liability is with the designer.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gibney View Post
    A client has asked me to design and build a lot of fences to protect their baby from hurting himself on stairways in their house. They want the fences to be beautiful, and sympathetic to the house interior.

    Their house is big, and there are about 8 places they need fences, ranging from 3' to 18' spans.

    The floors and stairs are covered in hard modern tile, so they do need the fences, and I would love the income from the job.

    But my wife is concerned that if anything goes wrong and someone is injured that we could be the target of a zealous lawyer.

    For what it's worth I am licensed, bonded and insured for millwork and cabinetry in California.

    Would you take this job?
    No Mark, I wouldn't unless you have an Engineer design it and stamp the drawings, and inspect the completed items.

    I'm sure you're a very competent wood worker, however the design of safety items, especially where children are involved is something that only knowledgeable individuals should do, and the product should be inspected and tested to applicable standards.........Regards, Rod.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
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    1) Acquire, read, and follow the related regulations to the letter. CPSC for the feds, I wouldn't be surprised if CA had additional rules. There may be others.
    2) Make sure your product and business liability insurance is in place at least at the usual $2M level, and consider going significantly higher. Increasing the limits may not be exorbitantly more expensive, talk to your agent.

    Neither waivers nor what you call it on a bill of sale will make any difference. (especially given that you've publicly documented that you know what you're building here!) If you follow the regulations to the letter you should be OK, but back it up with an appropriate insurance policy. Building a legally compliant product provides no protection from being sued, it just improves your chance of prevailing in the end-- you want the insurance company on your side and providing the lawyer.

  7. #7
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    I've wondered how tree house builders and wooden playground equipment manufacturers don't get sued to oblivion. It may be helpful to have your business structured as an LLC or Inc, which should give a degree of protection in the event of a lawsuit.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Rozmiarek View Post
    I've wondered how tree house builders and wooden playground equipment manufacturers don't get sued to oblivion. It may be helpful to have your business structured as an LLC or Inc, which should give a degree of protection in the event of a lawsuit.
    My understanding - and I'm no expert, just know what I read in the paper - that being an LLC or sub S corp. provides limited protection. If there is only one shareholder, good luck though I imagine it depends on the jurisdiction.

  9. #9
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    Sounds like these customers have lots of extra money to hire lawyers if anything goes wrong. Furthermore I think many rich folks will blame others, and not themselves, if anything goes wrong.
    Bill D

  10. #10
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    Much as I hate to pass up on a good job like this, I think you're all probably right to say I should pass on this one.
    I appreciate your advice.

    Mark

  11. #11
    If your insurance covers it, build it. How is it any different to you if one of your cabinets falls of the wall and hits a kid, the lawyers will still come after you even if not your fault.

    Build in the price money for a rider if need be to add more protection for this job.

  12. #12
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    If I have a question like this I usually go to my insurance agent and ask him.
    Bumbling forward into the unknown.

  13. #13
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    Dec 2005
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    I wouldn’t touch that with a 10 foot pole.

  14. #14
    I would talk to my insurance person (maybe add something specific and put it on the bill) and also the building inspector. If an inspector approves the work and you have enough insurance go make some money.

  15. #15
    That sounds like a really dumb idea. There is no substitute for constantly watching a child. They need a Nanny.

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