Is it legal to sell a kit that includes all of the parts, instructions, and diagrams so someone could build there own DC-DC Converter kit? I believe it requires certifications (e.g., UL) to make & sell DC-DC Converters, so someone suggested selling kits until I make enough $ to get the DC-DC Converter fully UL listed. The kit would also include the DC batteries and the chassis.
This seems a little iffy to me because what if there's a flaw in my circuit design, someone buys my kit that includes all of the directions and parts (everything) to make the DC-DC Converter, they build it, and it burns down their house? That might be a guaranteed lawsuit win for them, no?
Only your death will protect you from a lawsuit, but it will not protect your estate. I think your problems would begin if you claim UL without actual UL. Otherwise the end user would need to get UL for the end product.
Having UL would make you insurance more affordable.
If you are really worried be sure to put a disclaimer with the documentation and size that fuse so if the PS fails it does not catch on fire or smoke excessively in any possible failure mode short of total abuse.
BTW: Part of the UL testing regime would ( used to when I checked it 25 years ago, require a hot cup of oil be poured into your supply and not ignite. Fun with toasters.
IANAL, but I suspect the sales of such a converter (without UL certification) is in no way illegal. Heck, people sell stuff like 2.4GHz or 27MHz RF amplifiers or non-cell-blocked RF receivers all the time, and everyone knows darned well that 99% of the buyers are going to be *using* such equipment in an illegal manual, yet the sellers are often left alone if they do a good enough job of describing their goods as "test equipment" or similar. In your case, there's not even any particular attractoin to use such a device in an illegal manner.
That being said, if someone buys your product, it starts on fire and burns their house down, you almost certainly will be sued these days. You can add as many disclaimers as you want to the product, but that won't prevent your loss of time and money when you're forced to win your case in court. I would guess that about the only effective way to prevent much of this would be to get a *written* agreement from potential customers that you're providing no guarantees, the product is not UL listed, etc., since they it should be a pretty much open-and-shut court case should the issue ever arise (unlike "click-through" or shrinkwrap licenses, signed agreements hold a lot more weight).
Alternatively, figure out how to set up a real corporation somehow, so that -- worst case -- the corporation is sued out of existance, but your personal well-being is largely untouchable. (The "corporate veil" and all that -- unless *gross* negligence can be demonstrated, you're safe.)
Dump gmail so his posts make it past the gmail.com twit/spam filters, and
Understand the difference between civil (liabilty) and criminal ('lawful' or 'legal'). It is certainly lawful and legal to sell kits. Whether you'd be exposed to liability should one go wrong, that's a different story. Despite the often times held belief, everyone doesn't get a liability suit filed againt them--no lawyer will bother with a suit if the defendant has no money to speak of (and no liability insurance), and that applies to virtually all small businesses.
The plaintif wuold still have to *prove* negligence, prove a case where the plaintif acted reasonably, did everything according to the supplied plans and parts, etc.
again, I'll say it: no lawyer will sue when the defendant has no assets to speak of, and no insurance. There is no value in that type of suit, nothing significant can be collected, and we all know the plaintif won't have the money to pay the lawyer.
Not today, not for small comproations that are not publically held. Courts don't have any problems at all going after private assets in this situations, and see the corporation as a simple method to avoid liability.
Hi Paul I always find it quite sad when people start getting nervous and worry about these sorts of things. I assume you live in the sue-happy US of A? Really, don't worry about it. Design it properly (heat dissipation, overload protection etc) and the chances of it burning down someone's home is zero. How much power are we talking about here?, and what kind of batteries? Mains power devices are another level, but if your device is not mains powered then there is much less to worry about.
As others have said, the chances of someone suing you when you don't have any insurance is very low, and that's on top of the chances of it burning down someones house. What you have to worry about is people returning the kit "under warranty" because they assembled it wrong and it doesn't work, they'll think it's *your* responsibility to fix it. I've been selling kits for my magazine projects for over 15 years, and that happens occasionally, you just have to wear it.
Your chances are much higher of someone suing you when they trip and knock their head in your front garden.
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I would say: DO worry about it, at least enough to set up a business to isolate yourself from any claims; A collegue of mine is being sued+harassed endlessly by some c*nt he once *helped* with some work and fell out with over not getting paid even the expenses for helping!
If you are neither working as an employee, nor as a business you are sortof in the s**te basically with endless legal possibilities of draining your time and money through the courts.
Again, in the US such isolation is virtually impossible to obtain without a public company. If the courts determine you were negligent you will be liable. The only way to absolutely avoid liability is to both have the company a publicly owned corporation, and to NOT work for the company.
It's legal to sell kits. Don't assemble it at all. Assuming you have a disclaimer of liability statement prominently displayed within the purchasing process, it is the person who builds the device who assumes liability.
Once you start preassembling them, UL listing or not it is you who assumes liability, a good insurance policy should be in place by that point.
Nothing is bulletproof, nor do you have any reasonable guarantee that even if your design is perfect, that someone won't improperly assemble it or spill a bottle of liquid inside, throw it in the bathtub, knock it off a shelf and then try to use it attached to a kite during an electrical storm.
All you can do in that regard is put thought into it's ruggedness and test it as much as your conscience demands. Spontaneous failure and fire can usually be prevented with basic steps like a good strain relief at the chassis, fuse(s), adequate clearance between parts and cementing down anything prone to flop around due to it's height vs weight (though in this latter case, it's part of the instructions for the assembler). Test it in high ambient temperature conditions, power cycle the heck out of it. Drop it on the floor a few times and see what goes wrong. At that point you have exceeded due diligence, most finished products you buy won't survive these conditions.
Make sure you clearly state there are no refunds once assembly has begun and emphasize safety during construction and use. At that point each individual customer assumes responsibility for their ability to understand the circuit and build it properly, but if you don't have an EE degree it would be good to have an EE validate it in writing just in case anyone ever tried to sue you for their own mistakes.