Lending power tools to neighbors and friends isn’t normally something that one would expect to create legal risk. In some situations, however, someone who has lent power tools can face a lawsuit from someone who is injured by the tool. In many situations such claims can be meritless, but the tool’s lender can end up spending money and time defending against a lawsuit that might have been avoided. There are a few things to consider before lending tools.
How do tools create liability risk?
No matter their safety features, power tools are inherently dangerous. They can cause very serious injuries, like amputations, or even death. There are two principal ways a tool can cause such injuries: through improper use (i.e., attempting to hand-hold a board while cutting it with a circular saw) or as a consequence of inadequate maintenance.
Liability for an injury caused by a power tool will always be a question of facts as well as law. The nature of the injury and the state of mind of the person who was using the tool at the time of the accident will be of central importance. Was the tool being used in an unreasonably dangerous way? Was the person using it under the influence of alcohol or drugs? If the person using it was a minor, was an adult providing adequate supervision?
Amidst these questions a tool’s lender may wonder why anyone would think the lender could be at fault. One answer is that lawyers for an injured person may think of a lawsuit against the lender as a way to force the lender (or the lender’s insurance provider) to settle rather than endure the expense of trial. In other words, the risk isn’t so much that an injured plaintiff can “win” but that the cost of fighting the suit is great enough to force the defendant to pay something.
Avoid practices that assume responsibility for a tool’s performance
The most common way a defendant can end up with liability for an injury is to behave like a business when lending out tools. Asking for a payment in exchange for lending is the clearest way to do this. A plaintiff could also argue that other forms of consideration were given to the lender, such as an in-kind exchange of tools. A plaintiff may even argue that a jar of homemade jam given as a “thank you” gift was in fact a form of payment. If lending, the best course is to not accept any form of payment.
A lender can create an impression of being in the tool-lending business in other ways. Taking out special insurance is an example. So is imposing nonfinancial requirements on the borrower, such as asking them to take out their own insurance.
If you’re going to lend tools, lend only well-maintained tools
A tool’s owner needs to make sure that the tool is free of dangerous defects before lending it out. Problems like a frayed power cord, loose blade guard, or improperly tightened mounting bolt could create heightened risk for anyone using the tool. Especially where the borrower doesn’t know about such dangers, the owner may be responsible if the fault causes injuries.
There are a few other steps that a lender can take:
- Be sure to include the tool’s instruction manual with the tool.
- Avoid lending worn out equipment, such as saw blades or drill bits.
- Never lend “customized” tools, such as those with replacement parts or pieces missing.
When it comes to dangerous equipment, it’s important to bear in mind that a friendship is not necessarily a shield against litigation. The cost of recovery can force an injured person to look for sources of compensation wherever they can be found. If you have been injured by a borrowed tool and you would like to explore your legal options, the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez can help. For a free attorney consultation call today at 702-388-4476. We can also be reached through our contacts page.