I am teaching a wheel throwing class in my home studio. I am looking for a liability release form that I could have my students sign releasing me from liability.
Liability Release Form
Posted 29 December 2013 - 02:28 PM
For the most part, to my knowledge, there is no such beast.
Such forms basically keep the "honest people" from suing you. In defending a suit, such signed forms can HELP your defense, but they apparently do not guarantee anything.
The more you overtly "have" (home, vacation home, cars, money in the bank, etc.) the more likely someone will sue. Laywers are typically looking for "deep pockets" whern they take on a contingency lawsuit. If you are diort poor, even if the case is won by the plaintif, their odds of recovering any award are low. And in contingency, they work on a percentage of the award.
If the injured party is willing to pay their legal costs "up front", then the deep pockets idea applies less. But that is an expensive approach for the plaintiff.
If someone can prove "gross negligence" no amount of forms will likely protect you.
I have a form I use for workshops at my studio... drawn up by a lawyer. Some people read it and won't sign it..... those folks I don't want in the workshop anyway . The language is deliberately scary, and includes a long list of potential things that can happen in a studio and woodfireing environment, and includes the risk of "DEATH". I wonl;t take people yuinder the age of majority in workshops here; too risky.
If it is kids you are teaching (under the age of majority in your State) then you need the legal parent or guardian to sign. And in some cases ruliongs have been made that parents cannot sign away the legal rights of children. In some cases the child will have to right to sue up until they reach the age opf majority......... so it they were injured at the age of 10, they can still sue you anytime up until they hit 18 ( or whatever it is in your state). My understanding is that this is a complex area of law.
If you are in a rented space, you likely need to talk to the landlord first.
Fisst, talk to your own lawyer; an intenet forum of potters is not the best place to base decisions on legal advice upon . One option is also to get some studio business liability insurance... it is relatively cheap. And if you can, move from a sole proprietorship to a LLC to protect your personal assets.
PS: I'm not a lawyer and have not played one on TV.
Immediate Past President; Potters Council
Professor of Ceramics; New Hampshire Insitute of Art
Posted 29 December 2013 - 03:33 PM
thanks John these are all adults that are working in the studio and have become friends. I talked to my insurance company and it was going to cost more for the ins. than I was making teaching the class. We own our studio. I am a retired art teacher and teaching this class is fun for me and my students enjoy coming out here once a week to work in clay. I was just hoping there was something out there that would protect me without buying the ins.
Posted 29 December 2013 - 03:52 PM
Maybe a straight business liablity policy may work-mine under 400$ per year for a million bucks also a umbrella policy may work for even less$.
Now we all know how dangerous clay work is-the spinning wheel can catch clothing and choke one to death-you can trip and drown in a slurry bucket or the ever popular stick your finger in kiln plug socket when wet.
When I had studio sales for 19 years and had lots of folks come by the umbrella policy did the trick-now as John says because I own a lot of stuff thats worth $$ a few boats properties etc I carry a liability policy in case someone chokes on a spoonrest while trying to eat it. They may like Boston Whalers and need mine.
You could always draw up your own worst case form and have them sign it-do not forget to include choking on clay balls in that paperwork as well as no tounges on live electric kiln elements.
Its a sick lawyer world now
Posted 29 December 2013 - 07:46 PM
Honestly, this is an issue I have thought about. I don't know what the solution is. For someone who earns a living in their studio, $500 a year for liability coverage seems reasonable. For the rest of us, it can be awfully limiting as to what we can do in our studios without great financial risk.
Dry Ridge Pottery
Posted 29 December 2013 - 08:28 PM
I was once told by a lawyer that having them sign a form is really not going cover you. Somehow they don't hold up in court, maybe she was wrong but I trust she may not be. I think an umbrella policy might be best. We are only open to the public 2 times a year. But if you are teaching there is also liability as far as how you teach them. If you don't cover all the safety with the materials and tools you could be liable as not teaching them proper safe procedures. For instance a copy of MSDS sheets may need to be employed and I know there are some funny things said here but I had a student get scalped by using a blunger and she had not tied her hair back properly. The size of the chunk of hair that came out left an inch plus area where I guess hair will not grow now. That was years ago at a university, so even though she was properly trained and had signed a sheet telling her of all the possibilities around power tools where it explicitly talked of tiring hair back and no jewelry along with eye protection and basics around respirators for clay and glaze chemicals, her parents still were going to sue the university. Now, if you are just teaching some basic throwing and not letting them around certain tools and you don't have dust hazards and ventilation issues in your studio are all taken care of, them???? I would seriously think about finding a lawyer who likes pots or does pro bono. CREF may also offer some good ideas and maybe cheaper prices??? Good Luck and Happy New Year!
Head of Ceramics, Central Washington University
CWU offers; BA, BFA, and MFA Degrees, (Post Baccalaureate also available). Images of CWU Ceramics studio can be seen at
Posted 30 December 2013 - 09:22 AM
The organization for which I work has a student liability release form that must be completed prior to participating in any of our classes (pottery, print, photo, painting). We have an adult version and a youth version. I can email you the forms if you'd like. You'd have to tweak the language a bit to fit your business' name - and run it by your lawyer, of course - but I think I have what you're looking for.
Shoot me an email at email@example.com andI'll send them your way.
Christopher Vaughn Pottery
Functional stoneware forms
handcrafted in Burlington, Vermont
On Instagram @chris_throws_pots
Posted 30 December 2013 - 09:31 AM
Thanks for all the input. I really enjoy sharing this passion of making clay objects and sometimes forget the legalities involved. I always emphasize studio safety but I know it is not possible to think of every thing that might happen in a studio. Insurance and lawyers seems like such a racket but a necessity, and I also have a boat i don't want to loose.
Posted 31 December 2013 - 08:07 AM
Posted 01 January 2014 - 05:40 PM
I would form an LLC. You can do this online but it's got to be registered in your state (details vary by state). In my state it costs about $70 to get an LLC set up. You do need to set up a bank account for the LLC. The bank will require an EIN and the charter for your LLC (filed with the state of resident).
You can read various opinions about suing an LLC.
I suggest an LLC for any type of business. When I had multiple stores, we had a separate LLC for each store. And when we did Junior League shows and opened seasonal mall kiosks we had LLC's for those too. My current business is Dirt Roads Pottery, LLC. A LLC is good protection from civil action against your personal assets. Now, if you do something criminal .. no protection at all.
During 20 years of owning various businesses, I've had quite a few "threats" of lawsuits. When they found out they would be filing against an LLC, all but one dropped it. Very few, if any (smart) attorneys will take a case on contingency against an LLC, unless the LLC has liability insurances and usually just go for the cap amount of the insurance policy, if there is strong lawsuit. We had one law suit actually filed in the state of California. I called the company that filed and told them there was exactly $23 in bank account of xxxxx, LLC and we had no liability insurance in the LLC and were in the process of dissolving the LLC so ... go for it". Never heard anything from them. They didn't even ask for proof of dissolution. We did have a few issues with some commercial leases but the LLC's disrupted any litigation. None of these ever went so far as to file. We did get one letter that outlined legal action which we didn't even respond to, upon legal advice. Never heard from them. I was given this legal advice "Companies only sue where there are assets to be gotten". As said (smart) attorneys only take contingency cases where there are hard assets (which can be frozen) or insurance money. Individuals are very unlikely to retain an attorney unless they think they can get something of value (like YOUR house). During all that time no filing was ever directed towards our personal asset holdings. Not even a letter.
Since you are doing it in your home, the LLC should rent a space from you for the classes. One thing we always did in property we owned was to have the business in a separate LLC from the actual property. Pretty easy to liquidate a bank account and inventory but not real estate. Just write a check from your LLC to yourself to establish this. (We wrote one check that covered yearly rent, notated on check and you must CASH or deposit the check) Most businesses do carry liability insurance. It's quite reasonable, something you might look in to if you are going to do this on a continual basis.
I wouldn't do any type of business, especially in my "home", without protection of an LLC. In my state (Mississippi) liability waivers are NOT adequate protection. Not worth the paper they are printed on really. You just want to insure that the LLC is set up according to the rules in your state. You might consult an attorney or just use Legal Zoom. I've had attorneys do them and have done quite a few myself using Legal Zoom.
NOTE: We had a lawyer set up all of the above actions. The only thing I have personally done is set up LLC's (on line) and set up LLC bank accounts. So this is not really legal advice, just an outline of legal measures used in my previous businesses.
Posted 02 January 2014 - 09:44 AM
The common thread in this series of postings from my answer on is basically... get whatever advice you wahn to BYT....... consult a lawyer where you are.
"Damn it. I'm a Potter not a Lawyer, Jim."
Immediate Past President; Potters Council
Professor of Ceramics; New Hampshire Insitute of Art
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