An item I bought second hand injured me. Who’s responsible?
The Panasonic microwave I got for a steal at a garage sale started sparking the first time I used it. I ended up with burns on my hands.
If you’re injured by something you bought at a garage sale (or at a thrift store or through Craigslist), the product manufacturer and the seller — and any number of suppliers or distributors in between — could be responsible.
For liability to attach, you have to prove that the person or business was negligent, and that their negligence caused or contributed to your injuries. This can be tricky. When you buy something at a garage sale, items are typically sold “as is” and are often final sale. As the buyer, you’re responsible for checking the item over carefully and asking questions about its condition before purchasing it. Once you buy it, you accept the risk that it may be defective and may not work as it should.
But there are exceptions. If the product itself was defective out of the box, the manufacturer could be at least partly liable — though they may say the seller damaged the item or improperly tried to fix it before selling it to you. Meanwhile, if you’re hurt using a second-hand product, the seller can be responsible if they knew it was faulty and dangerous but sold it to you anyway.
A seller can also be liable if the product doesn’t meet current safety standards or has been recalled by Health Canada or banned for sale in Canada. (Some items, like used mattresses and baby walkers, can’t be sold at all.)
In a nutshell, “buyer beware, seller take care” when dealing with secondhand items. Both parties need to carefully measure the risks involved.
We have more on what you have to show to prove a defective product claim and how to make a claim for damages.