scary thought: could you be sued for an instructable?

What if some well meaning individual created an instructable that somehow was misinterpreted by a well meaning individual who then subsequently injured himself or worse spilled very hot coffee on himself and then decided to sue you into oblivion?

thanks for any thoughts

sort by: active | newest | oldest
canucksgirl5 years ago
I suppose anything is possible... The best thing that you (or anyone) can and should do is include a "disclaimer" note on your Instructable if you foresee anyone having problems, or your Instructable uses dangerous equipment or materials. Simply saying that you assume no responsibility for anyone who chooses to make your project and that they should observe any and all safety precautions, in my opinion, should be enough.
foobear (author)  canucksgirl5 years ago
Yes, I suppose if you wanted to be safe, you could compose a long winded EULA and ask people to agree to it or something. But then, I've heard that EULA's don't hold up in court because nobody reads them.

I know this is silly, but I live in America, where people are crazy. I've heard it's better in Canada, but I don't know.

foobear (author)  foobear5 years ago
The funny thing about a question like mine is, the people who actually do know the answer, actual lawyers, would be very unlikely to chime in and say something for fear that they may in turn get sued.

There should be an extension of the Good Samaritan Law for Lawyers which allows them to help people by giving them advice without fear of lawsuits.

Perhaps another corollary of the Good Samaritan Law can be extended to include DIY websites. Our intention is to help people, but if we inadvertently hurt someone while trying to help them, there should be some sort of protection there and maybe there is, but I don't know.

No one knows the answers until it is tested in court.

Anything that may happen - can happen

if your that unsure don't post.

Safest option.
foobear (author)  rickharris5 years ago
Yes and never leave the house and never do anything, I suppose.
Vyger foobear5 years ago
The Good Samaritan Law applies to emergency situations where there is no time to debate what is the right thing to do. If you pull somebody from a burning car you don't have an obligation to secure their belongings also and they cannot sue you for it. But, a web sit is not an emergency.

However the freedom of speech right does apply. You are free to say what you want even if it is not correct. Look at the political stuff that is going on now, how much of what is being said, or accused, really true?

A person is obligated to use common sense in their daily living. The world is not liable for an individual acting stupid. If you think your cape gives you super powers and allows you to stand in front of a train and stop it, its not the trains fault that it ran you over. People are free to say whatever they like, as long as it does not pose a threat to public safety, such as shouting fire in a crowded theater when there is no fire. If you give advice to people with the sincere intent of helping them it is up to them to accept or reject it. If you are not being malicious in what you are doing with the intent of doing harm to others then the free speech rights apply and you are protected under the constitution.

Of course there are a gazillion more arguments and debates about all of that but the basic thing is that as an author you are free to express your opinion and give advise. It is your readers obligation to determine if it is sound and reasonable and if they want to follow it.
foobear (author)  Vyger5 years ago
That is all good. But I'm not sure that freedom of speech can protect you from being sued. Maybe they can't put in jail for something you said, but I people do get sued for things that are said, like slander, for instance.or libel. But your argument is reassuring nonetheless.

Apparently we don't sue quite as freely as our neighbors to the south. :)
Kiteman5 years ago

See section 19 of the ToS.


That means the responsibility for an individual's safety rests with the individual, not with the site or the author.

It has to be this way, or an author could be liable for the daftest lawsuits ("he didn't tell me not to drink the varnish, and now I'm sick").

foobear (author)  Kiteman5 years ago
Yes, I want to believe that

but then there's this other paragraph:

All information, images, data, text, software, music, sound, diagrams, photographs, graphics, video, messages or any other materials whatsoever (collectively, “Content”), whether publicly posted on or privately transmitted via the Site, are the sole responsibility and property of the person from which such Content originated and/or the applicable owner or licensor thereof (the “Author”).

This means that the user, and not Instructables, is entirely responsible for all Content that he or she uploads, posts, emails or otherwise transmits, whether via the Site, any Service or otherwise.

While each user must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of any Content, including any reliance on the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of such Content, those users posting anything not suitable for all audiences must agree that they are fully responsible for all Content they have posted anywhere on any Service. Should any Content be deemed illegal by any applicable law, rule or regulation, Instructables may, in its sole discretion, remove such Content and submit all necessary information to the proper authorities

This seems to say that you are fully responsible for any negative outcomes associated with your content.

I want to believe though, I do...
Kiteman foobear5 years ago
That's covering the site in case an authors breaks copyright law or posts outright pornography.
foobear (author)  Kiteman5 years ago
Yeah, I picked up on that, but the wording is very broad. I got that sense from reading it, but also noticed how they left it wide open to cover anything they may not have considered.

I realize these things are designed to cover the corporation's business, as it were, and that is typical of these types of agreements, terms of service, EULAs etc.

But truthfully, from time to time I wonder about it and it gives me pause.

blkhawk5 years ago
You can find some information at, about how to determine legal liability. The information on this site mentions liability for accidents and defective products but, I could not find any mention of given advice, like the one we get at Instructables.
Vyger5 years ago
I believe that even with the disclaimer someone could file a lawsuit. However it would almost certainly be thrown out. Anybody can sue almost anybody for almost anything, if they want to waste their money. Filing to sue and being successful in suing are 2 completely different things. There will always be a lawyer somewhere who will be willing to take your money to file a suit that he knows will be tossed. So the real question is whether they could successfully sue someone and that answer is most likely not. And not only that but you would be able to petition the court for them to pay you compensation for your time and the cost of defending yourself. And you probably could also counter sue them for slander and/or defamation of character and probably other things as well. Those things tend to keep a lid on the frivolous suits. A suit has to have merit in order to proceed through the court system. And negligence has to be proved, it can't be assumed as being true.
Read the T+Cs
foobear (author)  steveastrouk5 years ago
I did. But IANAL.

Seems to me this is a way of saying "yes"?
No, as the T and Cs say