Posted by Charity on March 5th, 2009

One of my hobbies is making homemade soaps and other bath and beauty stuff.  I have been making it for years for myself and I love to give it away to people.

Someone stops by for tea, they usually leave with soap.  A neighbor watches my kids in an emergency, she finds herself with a nice bag of assorted soaps.  You get the picture.

As you can imagine, I have heard time and time again that I should sell my soaps.  And why not?  People love B&B products.

The one thing that has stopped me from going into business is product liability insurance.  It is very expensive and you can’t do business without it because, let’s face it, Americans love to sue.

I briefly listed some of my soaps on etsy, but I stopped because the reality of the risk hit me and, even though I have virtually noting worth suing for, a lawsuit could still cause me a lot of trouble.

That is why, when everyone else is celebrating the US Supreme Court ruling that the musician from Marshfield, whose arm was amputated after a botched injection, can collect her $6.7 million lawsuit award from the drug’s manufacturer, I do not feel like celebrating.

I cringe at the thought that, in this country, you are responsible when someone else misuses your product.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel so bad for the woman, Diana Levine.  And when I saw the picture of her smiling with her arms in the air, I couldn’t help but smile.  She experienced a tragic loss of limb and I am sure this ruling, and the fact that she is going to be a millionaire, is great news for her.

I also want to be clear that I am not disagreeing with the court decision.  The issue before the court was about FDA-approved labels and whether they protected the company from liability.

What upsets me is that a Vermont jury awarded damages against Wyeth in the first place.  Wyeth did not cause Ms. Levin to lose her arm.  The nurse injected the medicine in an artery instead of a vein.  It was medical malpractice, not a faulty or mislabeled product.  There is a warning about the risk of inter-arterial injection.  The product has been available for decades and is both safe and effective when used properly.

But, of course, the big pharma can afford it, right?

Well, wrong.  This sort of judgement hurts all of us from big corporation to consumer to at-home mom trying to sell her soap on etsy or at a craft fair.

Lawsuits like this increase the risk of starting any business and, in fact, prevent many people from starting micro-businesses.  They also increase the price of everything we buy, not only from the companies paying lawsuit settlements, but also from every company in business that has to pay for product liability insurance.

No doubt, Ms. Levine has a lot to celebrate, as do others looking for monetary payment for their terrible accidental injuries.

But, make no mistake about it, the American public really has little cause to celebrate the litigous nature of our society and the decision that the maker of a product is liable for the product’s misuse.

Oh, and I should also mention that I did manage to find a company that specializes in insuring home-based businesses that sell under $5,000/year, the perfect solution for me.  Expect to hear more about my soap when my online shop launches next month.

3 Responses to “It’s Your Fault I Misused Your Product”

  1. I don’t know anything about this case, but based on what you wrote, I agree with you completely. Sounds like medical malpractice to me. Just chiming in here so I can agree with you about SOMETHING. :)

  2. I’d love to also hear more about that insurance company you found. Sounds like they’re covering a great little niche, and knowing their name might be handy in the future!

  3. It’s RLI Corp. I found out about them from the Indie Beauty Network, which offers insurance to its members who sell over the $5,000, filling another niche. I love capitalism! ;)

    Here is a list of the home-based businesses they insure. They have to be operated from your home, though.