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Maker's Liability?

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by Peter Atwood, Jun 7, 2003.

  1. Peter Atwood

    Peter Atwood

    Oct 26, 2000
    The thought comes up from time to time......what would I do if someone were to use my knife in a crime? Could I be held liable for someone hurting another person with my creations?

    Any ideas on this? Anyone ever heard of a maker being hassled or sued over something like this? Is there any kind of insurance available to makers of cutlery?

    Not the happiest of thoughts I admit, but worthy of discussion.
  2. simmonsk


    Nov 11, 2001
    CKDFORUMS has a few threads on insurance over in their business of knifemaking forum.
    Enjoy, Ken
  3. ako Knife Lady

    ako Knife Lady

    Feb 11, 2003
    The group is Old West Living History Foundation. They can be contacted at:
    1130 Sheridan Ave. Suite 160
    Cody, Wyoming 82414
    (307) 587-1872 or Fax (307) 587-1875.

    While this organization is for reenactors, they realize that knifemaking in any form has an historical basis. Knifemakers are keeping a lost art alive and adapting it to the present and future. These people will insure knifemakers (and blacksmiths) at shows, even though it isn't specifically a historical event.

    Essentually the insurance is 2 part.

    Part 1: The policy provides a $5,000,000.00 spectator and general liability insurance policy anytime during our season that you are participating in your living history mission with NO DEDUCTIBLE. General Liability: This coverage protects your business from claims arising from alleged bodily injury, personal injury or property damage.

    Part 2: SPECTATOR and GENERAL LIABILITY INSURANCE: This protects you in the event of an injury to a spectator while you are reenacting or performing your living history mission. This coverage is included with all memberships. The policy is with St. Paul Fire & Marine. The coverage has a $5,000,000.00 occurrence limit with $6,000,000.00 general aggregate. There is no deductible. They also provide personal insurance, but only at shows.

    This is how they describe themselves.

    We are not an insurance company. We're a national/international organization of living history enthusiasts & participants who celebrate the spirit & legends of the 1800’s American Frontier. We are men, women, children, merchants, craftspeople, reenactors, actors, film makers & event producers. We participate in private & public functions, parades, Living History events, Old West theme parks, wild west stunt shows, stunt schools, Rendezvous, Pow Wows, Wagon Trains, large reenactment groups & military unit activities, stunt shows, commercials, TV shows, films & major motion pictures. We are an inclusive organization & we welcome all who are interested in Living History. We work to increase awareness in safety, our historical heritage, the authenticity of our time period, wardrobe & historical presentations. We do this by setting good examples and providing education through the promotion of events, fellowship and publications. ...We are not an insurance company. ... We are men, women, children, merchants, craftspeople, reenactors, actors, film makers & event producers. We participate in private & public functions, parades, Living History events, Old West theme parks, wild west stunt shows, stunt schools, Rendezvous, Pow Wows, Wagon Trains, large reenactment groups & military unit activities, stunt shows, commercials, TV shows, films & major motion pictures. We are an inclusive organization & we welcome all who are interested in Living History. We work to increase awareness in safety, our historical heritage, .... We do this by setting good examples and providing education through the promotion of events, fellowship and publications. ...The O.W.L.H.F. is dedicated to providing logistical & interpretive support, plus comprehensive reenactors liability insurance for the living history reenactors and SPECIAL EVENTS. Our members are covered by two insurance plans. Our aim is to promote goodwill, hospitality, education, safety, information, theatrical arts, exhibits, competitions, interpretive and cultural events.


    Hope this helps.

  4. B . Buxton

    B . Buxton

    Jul 8, 2001
    Peter, I wondered the same thing a couple years back, so I went to the sheriff's office and inquired. I told them that I was a knife maker and that I was worried if I would be in trouble if one of my knives was used in a crime, they informed me that the only way I would be responsible was if I was the one holding the knife when the crime was commited.
    I also asked them about blade length, they told me that was up to each individual state, and it was up to the buyer to know what he was allowed in his state. In this state (mo) I believe you can only carry a 5" blade in public, but you can carry any length you want out in the woods. So if I was carrying a 10" bowie in public, made by you in this state and got stopped, it would be my a** not yours. Thats the way it was told to me.

  5. Wild Rose

    Wild Rose

    Aug 23, 2002
    I think it is going to depend on how sleazy the lawyers want to get. Realize that right now this exact same thing is going on in the gun industry and the lawyers don't reaaly care if they win in court or not. If they decide they want to "break" you they can and will via continuous law suits. Remenber a law suit can come at you from civil court as well as criminal.

    What do you do? For now get some insurance and keep your fingers crossed.

    Sorry to sound pessimistic but one only has to read the news and see how sleazy some lawyers can get. One ray of sunshine is 30+ states have passed legislation banning such specious suits against gun companies and recently the US House overwhelmingly passed a bill (it goes to the Senate now ??? the home of several antigunners)outlawing them as well. Such legislation sets a precedent and that will apply for knifemakers as well.
  6. Matt Shade

    Matt Shade

    Nov 24, 1999
    The guy that shoes my horses was looking into (actually I think he's started now) making various drifts, punches and other tools to sell to other farriers/blacksmiths. He's always got some idea he's working out and seems to be a pretty sharp businessman. Anyway he talked like he couldn't sell any of the stuff without getting liability insurance of some form. Said that if a drift were to chip and hurt somebody's eye it was almost a garaunteed million dollar lawsuit. He had some angle on it where he incorporated it somehow so that if something really bad did happen they could bankrupt the business itself but not hurt his personal finances or horseshoeing business. That seemed like a smart way to go, but I don't understand all the legalities involved in doing it :confused:
  7. Mike Hull

    Mike Hull

    Nov 25, 2000
    Just be careful what you tell the carriers of your homeowners insurance. I had mine cancelled years ago when an underwriter found out I was a knifemaker. No appeal, nothing. He said I was a weapons maker, and they didn't want the liability.

    After that, it was hard to find a company to insure me. I did get coverage, but the new company(state farm) won't cover anything in the shop, no tools, nothing. A-holes!! :mad:
  8. Peter Atwood

    Peter Atwood

    Oct 26, 2000
    Interesting answers! Lots to think about there.

    Mike, I think "home shop hobbiest/machinist" would be a much safer moniker and keep the insurance guys happy. I'm about to look into getting some insurance coverage for my shop so I will keep all that in mind.

    To my mind the knife=gun thing doesn't really compute. Guns have one purpose period and that is a tool for moving a projectile. Knives are so much more versatile and useful as tools that what is happening in the gun industry concerning lawsuits is a completely different thing it seems to me. Still, there are many sleazy lawyers out there as you all point out and nothing would surprise me these days.
  9. heatride


    May 15, 2003
    Gezzz Mike never heard of such but glad you posted it. Dang If I tell my Homeowners about mine.
  10. Mike Hull

    Mike Hull

    Nov 25, 2000

    I hadn't either, until then.:eek: ;)

    I think if you have to tell them anything, do what Peter said, or that you're just a hobbyist. Don't ever say that ANYONE ever visits your shop.
    Insurance companys are sleazy, and they'll do ya if they can.;)
  11. NickWheeler


    Dec 3, 1999
    It's an interesting topic Peter.

    I think I put the story in the last thread on this kind of issue, but for the newer folks I'll tell it again.

    I left my truck at a YMCA parking lot and spent the day with my girlfriend. When we came back, I had this really uneasy feeling...just like the first time my truck had been broken into. The door was unlocked...something I never did when leaving it unattended :(

    Upon inspection, a box that had 4 finished knives in it was GONE!!!:eek:

    Of course the local police couldn't possibly do anything about it :rolleyes:

    But about a year later I got a call at work from the police wanting to know if I "knew anything about knives?" I told him that I make them, and he proceeded to question me like I was some sort of criminal. Finally I asked him what the hell was going on and he said they had "found a knife with my name on it."

    Finally I dragged it out of him that they had arrested a 19 year old chasing another 19 year-old with the knife (waving it around in the air) at the local theater.

    At first they acted like I had done something wrong, but FINALLY gave me the knife back and "decided I was not at fault."

    Hmm, well no $hit Sherlock.

    Another time, I got pulled over. The officer asked me if I had any weapons in the car.

    "Why yes, I have a bag FULL of knives," I said :D :D :D

    He started to get freaked out, but I showed him my business card before he could get too crazy.

    So I guess I really didn't answer your question, but they're sort of related stories ;)

    ps-sorry for the overdose of smilies, I couldn't resist!
  12. Peter Atwood

    Peter Atwood

    Oct 26, 2000
    Thanks for that story Nick. Maybe there's a ray of hope that some of my 5 stolen knives will be recovered. Luckily I was able to get a little money back from my homeowner's policy but it didn't cover the value of the knives only the cost of materials. But something is better than nothing!
  13. Jim Smyth

    Jim Smyth

    Oct 4, 1998
    Insurance is very expensive! Most don't want to insure you at all. One way around this is to Incorporate or form an LLC (Limited Liability Corp). Carry no insurance. They can only go after the assets of the corporation which will have very little cash, (self induced) and hopefully not many machines. Or at least not alot to loose, worse case senerio. If there isn't much there, no laywers will want to go after you, isn't worth there time because they can't make any money from your assets in the LLC. But make sure you run this thru you laywer first, laws are different everywhere.
  14. Wild Rose

    Wild Rose

    Aug 23, 2002
    The point is that the lawyers are suing the MAKERS not the users. No matter what your personal attitude is towards firearms vi-s-vis knives the fact that these sleazebags are suing someone not directly involved with the crimes can set a legal precedent.
    Paranoid? Well just read the laws in some states re: carrying ANY instrument "capable of being used as a stabbing instrument." Scary.
  15. fitzo


    Aug 14, 2001
    I think even more of a concern than the maker being sued for the use of his knife as a weapon in a crime is the concern over someone suing because their kid hurt himself with your knife while playing, or some similar scenario or whatever millions of rididculous reasons lawyers employ the "deep pockets" theory to get themselves work.

    Of equal concern, I found, is if you try to go the route of setting yourself up as a business if you have a home shop, and try to protect yourself as an LLC. In my case, I had to keep this as a "hobby", because knifemaking would be considered "light manufacturing" for zoning purposes and would be contrary to zoning codes in a residentally zoned neighborhood.

    Rememeber that there is no constraint on you being sued for anything.
    You can be sued for any reason someone wants, and then have to hire lawyers, etc, to prove the plaintiff is wrong in a civil suit. After that, your only recourse to justice is to countersue to gain any recompense. I encountered this years ago as Director of a local Harley Owners Group, when some rich bitch that wasn't getting her way threatened to sue me just to bury me financially in court, basically saying her money could outlast me and bury me. I checked into it, and lo and behold, this is essentially one of those loopholes that the rich have to mess with us common folk.

    My point is, you could easily find yourself the victim of a lawsuit just for some idiot sitting on the open folder he left on his carseat. His idiocy is your liability, and all too often the courts side with the idiots. One of the unfortunate consequences of our freedom is the liberal courts overprotecting the shallow end of the gene pool. :D
    Insufficient insurance and you could lose everything just to pay off a lawyer to represent you. Product liability insurance for knifemaking would be sky high, unaffordable for 99% of us. So, as long as we are selling knives, we are at significant risk. It's one aspect of this craft we seldom take into consideration.
  16. rlinger


    Mar 29, 2002
    Yes, but probably not yet. They aren't finished with firearms, fast food, SUV's and tobacco. Should be okay for a very few more years. Then it will be deep pocket knife manufacturers, and through restrictive legislation, the little guys.

  17. Centaur


    Sep 16, 1999
    I'm just a hobbyist maker, but I would imagine that having one of your creations used to harm another human being would be hard to take.

    I remember reading about maker Tom Maringer. He made some of the most sought after fighters (The Vorpar, If memory serves.) he also made japanese style and fantasy swords.

    Well, one day (in 1994 I think.) he recieved a letter from a man who owns one of his knives. The letter stated who well Mr. Maringer's blade worked, because it was used to kill someone. From what I've read on the forums, the letter went into very graphic details.

    Tom stopped making knives immediately.
  18. Mike Hull

    Mike Hull

    Nov 25, 2000
    (vorpal)Yeah I remember that. A year or two ago, here, in the TTO "Spyderco Civilian" thread, someone pointed out that this letter was sent by a troll. The whole thing was a hoax. :mad:

    I can understand him feeling bad, but I think he over did it.:(
  19. Tom Krein

    Tom Krein

    Feb 11, 2003
    I finished my new shop this last Feb. and called my State Farm representative to insure it. He came out and measured it and photographed it. He then looked at some of my knives and equipment and said he would call me the next day with premium etc.
    Nest day he calls and says he can't insure it because State Farm won't write the policy because I am a knifemaker and they didn't want the liability.
    I ended up going to an insurance broker that represents >20 different underwriters, only three companies would even write a policy on my new shop. I am paying over 2,000.00/year for liability and building insurance only no contents, etc.
    To me this is a bunch of crap. A knife is supposed to cut. People should be held accountable for their actions. It would help if judges would throw this kind of crap out of their courts. Even if you win one of these lawsuits you would probably be broke by the time you won. My .02 worth.

  20. rlinger


    Mar 29, 2002
    Justice and the rule of law is bought in this country.


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