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Building/Selling Machines and liability issues
Ok, so I tried to send a PM to one person from the 'ol droid. I didn't think it 'sent' at all.
Well now I'm getting responses from....well ....everyone.
My apologies to those who have no interest, but it seems there is some interest in this matter.

Here it is;
Alot of us like building machines, and some of us have at least a little interest in selling them.
There is that one little problem. Liability.

Does a 'kit' make me less liable. Is it even feasible to do this as a small cottage biz....or is it just too risky?

UL listing, will be a challenge. If you use a listed heating assembly and listed air assembly and are not modifying them in any way. Though i'm not a lawyer...just off the top of my head.

Sean Harrington


feasible to do this as a small cottage biz....or is it just too risky?

you are always liable when some jerk burns down their own house even though they use your equipment improperly. There are thousands of these stupid cases in the courts everyday of the week in the good old USA.

If this was 1939 and you started up a one man/woman shop you would not have to worry. Today you would have 400 employed and enough insurance to pay of any idiot.

Honestly the only answer is to ask your insurance agent (or more correctly an agent who business it is to insure your type of business,) go to the UL website for information, check with your local business community.

If your business if coffee you may be able to get an umbrella added to cover research, dev and sales of a roaster.

all I can think of right now.

Great question. I haven't put a homebuilt for sale because I haven't been able to find an adequate answer. I've only sold a couple odd extra parts. I have a couple lawyer friends who don't work in that area of law which they say is a world of it's own. I've tried to find info on the web without much luck. My brother dabbles in vintage and experimental aircraft that seems to allow some sort of kit like separation.
Tom at SM brought in the Quest that doesn't have UL approval and doesn't list them on their consumer site but lists them on coffee shrub their commercial site. Yet they are sold to consumers are they just taking a chance?. I also know that when someone has tried to buy a commercial sample/profile roaster the Co. are generally reluctant to do so.
It has been very frustrating to not be able to find the answers to all this. When UL gets involved you end up with something like the Behmor that becomes useless. And IMO is still more dangerous than many of the designs we come up with. I can only think that big business has pushed for regs. that make small production impossible or at least very expensive to find out how you must go about it. A specialty lawyer with this knowledge I'm sure don't come cheap.
With all the public ideas we share and post on roaster builds and mods we really need to find out more about this before someone gets screwed. I can only think this might have to be a group effort. I'm not sure we're going to find out the info for free. But how much might it cost for good advice becomes the question.
Ed B.
DreamRoast 1kg roaster, Levers, Hand Mills
Talk to KK? He sells machines. (Albeit from New Zealand). Also CoffeeRoastersClub (Len) sells machines and parts.

Edited by seedlings on 11/08/2011 11:13 AM
Roaster: CoffeeAir II 2# DIY air roaster
Grinder: Vintage Grindmaster 500
Brewers: Vintage Cory DCU DCL, Aeropress, Press, Osaka Titanium pourover
The Underwriters Laboratory is a private company that makes it revenue solely from manufacturers paying them to test their products for whatever tests the mfgr asks for. While the UL label is used by marketing to put consumers at ease that isn't its purpose. The real purpose is to UNDERWRITE the product as having lowered liability so that your insurance company gives you lower rates.

Using UL tested components doesn't reduce your liability. The entire product must be evaluated, not just bits and pieces. Many consumers have been duped into thinking that a toaster or percolator is UL approved because of the little tag on the cord. Actually, all that tag says is the the cordset passed the UL's cordset tests!

I own a mfgr business and we have lots of liability insurance, and even I don't feel qualified to advise Scott on this issue. My suggestion to you, Scott, is to talk with an insurance agent who deals with business insurance.

I think that kits could reduce, buy not eliminate, your liability. For instance, if some fool wired the roaster wrong and electrocuted himself you'd be liable if your wiring instructions were found to be vague or incomplete.

I once thought about making my sample roaster. Not complete roasters, not kits, but selling roaster parts. Each part would be rather innocuous. What's the worse that could happen? They'd cut themselves on a burr? My thought was that home hobbyists could say, "Hey! I used these parts to make a roaster! Here's how I did it." We do that all the time on HR. Look at the number of times we've talked about Fuji PXR3 PIDs or cement board as a "roaster part" To my way of thinking, using the HR forum as a third-party means that the liability all but evaporates. The reason being that a group or association is not a legal entity. Not the way that a corporation is a legal entity.
Edited by Dan on 11/08/2011 11:28 AM


Dan wrote:
" To my way of thinking, using the HR forum as a third-party means that the liability all but evaporates. The reason being that a group or association is not a legal entity. Not the way that a corporation is a legal entity.

This is good to hear. So at least Ginny:coffee: will be free to bring the rest of us coffee in prison?

It would be nice if we could know our rights for everyone's benefit. Ignorance of the law is no excuse but it ain't easy to find out what we need to know. Over the years I've only heard well meaning guesses.
Ed B.
DreamRoast 1kg roaster, Levers, Hand Mills
These days you will have liability no mater what.

Heck, tell some to go jump off a bridge, if they do, ......
Ed, I hear what you are saying, and this is something I've investigated a little. Not enough to give advice, but enough to ask a lawyer the right questions. And I have asked a lawyer about liability surrounding an association. I did this before I helped to found HRO.

Ginny is not the associaiton, the members constitute the association. An association is a group of people. However, one person is a legal entity, called an individual. Ginny is an individual, as such she has liability for her actions, but the HRO members are relatively immune as long as we act in good faith. If anything, the reverse is true. WE will be free to bring Ginny coffee in jail.

I encourage you to take your own advice and talk with a lawyer about this. Please, let us know what you find out.
Edited by Dan on 11/08/2011 6:13 PM
Let me ask around about this... in some of my circles are exactly these types of lawyers (please don't judge me! :|). And, they will give me candid advice on this.

Hope to offer an update soon...


europiccola | yama + coryrod | chemex | AP | clever
wbp1 | wepp1 | bm/hg | co hybrid (still coming soon...)
I think the kits from Koffee Kosmo keep the original Turbo oven unmodified - thermostat, thermal and safety shut off switches still in place (unlike mine). The motor is DC and uses an external power pack which may have UL, etc approval.

I think of this subject too and I hesitate to post step by step instructions on how I did my turbo oven modifications let alone market and sell kits.

Even with all the fail safes that protect people from themselves, they will still sue.



KKTO Roaster.
Jack, I hear what you are saying, and then I think about all the How-To and Do-It-Yourself books in print. Popular Science and Popular Mechanics printed How-To articles for decades. I can buy plans for thousands of projects from sports cars to houses to steam engines. This makes me think that the liability for providing information isn't that great.
I've seen alot of interest on the board,and in my PM box. Thanks.
It does seem that liability in a larger issue in the USA. I always suspected that, and still remember when it wasn't this bad!
David, Any thing you can find out would be great.

It is striking how much innovation is 'on hold' because of this.

Perhaps harmless kits, with a key component missing is an answer. heating element...which can be bought by the consumer.

Information being held separately is also very clever.

Interesting to note; My gas grill is NOT UL listed.
Is this because it is only 'intended for outdoor use'?
Hmm... -Scott
As I mentioned above, I find some comparison with experimental aircraft as what I consider we built are 'experimental roasters". We are driven in the same way as we want something that is different than what is offered off the shelf so to speak. Here are a couple links. I think I'll explore this comparison a little more.
Ed B.
DreamRoast 1kg roaster, Levers, Hand Mills
javajoe....welcome back! I'm impressed when I look back at old threads...from well before I arrived. It's impressive how far people have come with it.

Ed, your quite right. Very similar situations.
I'm incorporated, and insured, so in that way I am personally separated from this stuff, but it's nice to avoid the whole nightmare.

In my experience, lawsuits get thrown in all directions, they typically stick to whoever has money....right or wrong!
If you don't have a fat savings account, or if you're not overly insured, you likely won't get sued in the first place!

There is alot of great stuff being developed here ar HRO.
It would be nice to find some simple ways to limit legal exposure. -Scott
After reading a few more discussions around private sale of experimental aircraft liability I think it might be something we could possibly model from,
I like the "experimental" designation
and the "amateur-built" one too.
along with a waiver form (that might be able to be more easily cookie cutter covering various roasters than for an aircraft)
nothing it seems could stop a suit from starting but certainly seems like doing a few things might very strongly discourage the possibility of ever having one..
And as Dan mentioned, merely posting as well intentioned amateurs seems pretty safe.

I plan on doing more surfing
Edited by farmroast on 11/09/2011 2:44 PM
Ed B.
DreamRoast 1kg roaster, Levers, Hand Mills


Dan wrote:
Jack, I hear what you are saying, and then I think about all the How-To and Do-It-Yourself books in print. Popular Science and Popular Mechanics printed How-To articles for decades. I can buy plans for thousands of projects from sports cars to houses to steam engines. This makes me think that the liability for providing information isn't that great.

Some of those old articles are fun to read... "Build a 20,000 volt jacob's ladder in one weekend using a furnace transformer".

KKTO Roaster.
Hello, fellow home roasters (my first post):

This subject caught my eye, as I run a moderately large contract manufacturing company - we make products for approximately 200 companies. I'm not a lawyer, but here are a few relevant thoughts:

1. Liability: The likelihood that someone will sue you is very small, and it could be a risk worth taking, even in the US. You can shield yourself to a large extent by setting up an LLC or S-corp, and that would be VERY wise. Liability insurance is fairly cheap, but not cheap enough to be covered by the probable revenue from a coffee roaster business! Note that the cheapest liability insurance is what you can get through your homeowners' policy - see if it covers a home business (though it wouldn't cover your LLC or corp. )

2. UL: I've put a few products through UL. Most people hire a consultant. For a roaster it would probably cost about $15K for UL, perhaps $25K with a consultant. Dan's comments about UL are on point - note that UL certification is NOT required for a product of this type - UL certification would reduce the cost of insurance, and it would probably be required by any reseller. It would certainly be required by the building inspector or others if the roaster was to be used in a commercial environment. However, if you sell to individuals over the internet it would be of little value, other than forcing you to meet a lot of safety requirements, most of which are valuable and well considered, and to test compliance with those requirements.

Overall... I believe in risk-taking, and if you think you can sell a few roasters, I hope you all go for it. I'll buy one of each! Somebody could sue you at any time for any reason, or you could get run over tomorrow by a truck - but I hope neither of these possibilities keeps you cowering in you bed.
Wolfpv, Welcome to HR and thanks for your post. My goal is to NOT lead an uneventful life. Or as my dad used to say, "If no one is pissed at you, you are doing something wrong."
Wolfpv, thanks for jumping in! No way to completely avoid risk. Cowering in bed won't work. That's life.
I'm an S corp. That is likely the best shield for the money.
At least personal exposure is reduced.
I imagine someone could still come after my company.
Maybe they can find a way to get money out of it!! :)

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