Selling used items on Craigslist, Kijiji, Facebook Marketplace, and other online selling platforms has become commonplace. In fact, it has become even more popular during the pandemic. There are good reasons why these sites are so widely used: they are an easy and efficient way to save money, make money, and promote environmentally friendly practices. These sites capitalize on the idea that “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.”
People sell a wide variety of items on these sites. They include anything from clothing, jewelry, and purses to machinery, tools, and playgrounds. In fact, playgrounds became extremely sought-after at the beginning of the pandemic due to the cost of lumber and low supply issues (and the fact there was not much else to do). It is this second grouping of items that raises cause for concern from both a personal injury and legal liability perspective. As such, while there are many benefits to selling things through these platforms, it is not without risk and both sellers and purchasers should be aware of them.
When we purchase items from a store or directly from a manufacturer, there are certain protections in place that are not necessarily available when a private citizen is selling the item. As such, it is important to consider: can someone who sells something on one of these sites be responsible for injuries suffered from use of that item? The answer, is maybe.
The Court looked at this issue in a case where a woman purchased a used waterslide from an individual who had advertised it through the local paper. She subsequently installed the slide over her above-ground pool. Sadly, her daughter suffered very serious injuries after using it. As a result, a lawsuit was commenced and one of the people sued was the seller of the slide. Essentially, the purchaser argued that the seller mislead her as to the safe use of the slide, she relied on that information, and that caused (in part) her daughter’s injuries. Ultimately, the Court determined that the seller had no legal responsibility on the specific facts of that case. However, the Court did not rule out legal responsibility in these types of exchanges.
The bottom line is you should never knowingly sell something that is unsafe and certainly never mislead anyone as to the safety of an item. As a purchaser, you should exercise caution when purchasing such items on these sites. Ask questions, do your research, and carefully inspect the item(s). If you are ever in doubt, you can visit the Health Canada website, which contains product safety information, including product recalls and alerts.
Oatley Vigmond represents injured individuals in their claims against insurance companies. Oatley Vigmond can be reached at (705) 726-9021 or 1-888-662-2481.