Garage Sales: Am I liable?

Garage Sales: Am I liable?

Garage Sales: Am I liable?

Spring is here, and we may be well into spring cleaning.  What’s next? A garage sale, of course. Why not make a profit on those unused coats, shoes, and toys lying around?

While throwing a garage sale might be the perfect way to get rid of unused items and make a small fortune, a homeowner or renter needs to remember that they are opening themselves up to liability and should take steps to ensure that no one is injured at the garage sale.

So if your homeowners or renters policy has lapsed, don’t throw that garage sale until you have a plan in place!

Safety Issues to Keep in Mind

What sort of safety issues should a homeowner keep in mind when throwing a garage sale?

  • If you plan on selling used electrical items or other forms of electronics, many savvy consumers will ask to test the product before purchase to make sure it works.  This is understandable. A homeowner should plan for this request ahead of time and have an extension cord ready.  It should be taped down for safety to avoid trips and falls.  If at all possible, keep the cable out of the way of your shoppers.  Some unprepared homeowners have gotten the extension cord out too late, draping it across the yard and sidewalk to where the electrical item is only to have a patron fall and hurt themselves.
  • Don’t place items for sale on steps, ledges or on patios with a step.  Shoppers may be distracted looking at the merchandise and are generally unfamiliar with our home. They may forget about the ledge or steps.  The shopper may take a step backward causing serious injury to themselves.  Place items on flat surfaces clear of debris and far from ledges.
  • Don’t leave things set up outdoors overnight.  While we may think we are getting ahead by setting things up the in the front yard the night before, a curious neighbor want to check out what is going on and hurt themselves in the dark with the tables and items we have left out.
  • Remain outside during your garage sale and issue safety warnings regarding any possible danger.
  • Keep your dogs away from shoppers.  Even a well-trained dog can be a liability if a shopper accidentally trips over him.  Additionally, shoppers may bring their own pets and result in an altercation between animals.  Keeping your dogs away from shoppers will ensure you are free from liability during the garage sale.
  • Make sure pathways are clear.  Look for anything that may present as a trip hazard and eliminate them.
  • Use traffic cones and safety tape to keep shoppers from entering areas you don’t want them.
  • If your garage is cluttered, keep the garage door down so that shoppers don’t trip over the clutter.
  • Don’t set up items in an area you can’t monitor.
  • Make sure you are prepared for spills or fragile items breaking.  Should this occur, take immediate steps to clean up the broken glass. You may want to keep a broom, mop, garbage can and towels nearby (but out of the way) for this purpose.
  • If you have a raised grass area, make sure the lawn is mowed so that it is apparently evident that the grass area is raised.  (In the case Filipowicz v Diletto, a homeowner was found liable for allowing a three-inch drop between the lawn and sidewalk to be concealed by overgrown grass.)  Placing signs reminding patrons to ‘step down’ off of the raised lawn may be useful.
  • If you are selling baby and children’s items, make sure that the stroller or toy or high chair is not a recalled item.
  • If you are aware that an item presented a safety hazard, get rid of it and do not sell it.
  • Don’t place items so closely to each other that the walkways are cluttered causing a fall.
  • Keep sharp items, like tools, swords (hey, some people have them), knives or scissors, out of reach of children.  Place them in such a way that they won’t stick out from a table and cut a person passing by the table. Place signage warning of sharp items.

Finally, if you are a frequent garage sale thrower, your homeowner’s policy may deem this a profit-making venture and not cover an injury that occurred at your garage sale.  If you are in the business of flipping storage spaces and selling the items at your home, you may want to get additional insurance or purchase a separate policy for business liability or in-home business.

Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyers

If you were injured at a garage sale, please feel free to call my office to discuss your injury claim. I am a Sacramento personal injury lawyer practicing for 30+ years and have the leading website,  This does not mean that my firm, the Edward A Smith Law Offices, only handles auto accidents.  I have included on my site the areas of law I practice which includes dog bite claims and personal injury claims that occurred on someone’s property.

You can learn more about me and my practice at Yelp or Avvo.

Photo by freddie marriage on Unsplash

Editor’s Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy. [cha 8.21.18]

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