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If a business rents out objects for use around the house (think things like ladders, tools, toys etc.) and someone hurts themselves using the rented item, is the rental business liable?

I feel this may have some additional subtleties to it. For instance, if the rental business removed any safety warnings or something, so let's assume that the rental business is providing the product along with its original packaging and any other manuals and information that would have come with it were the renter to purchase the product, but provides no further information (that is, they don't provide their own training to the customer).

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Yes

Using NSW, Australia as an example, a supplier of "plant" has three sources of liability:

Contract

Subject to the provisions of the contract, a person has a general obligation to supply goods (by sale or hire) that are of "merchantable quality" and "fit for purpose" (either a reasonable purpose or a purpose actually made known).

Most contracts in Australia would be covered by the Australian Consumer Law (which applies to B2B transactions of less than $40,000 and all B2C transactions) which makes these obligations non-excludable by contract.

Negligence

Notwithstanding the contractual obligations any harm that occurred as a result of the hirer's negligence would be actionable.

Work Health and Safety Law

All Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU), which the hirer is, have a non-delegable duty to:

  • identify hazards
  • managing risks to health and safety
  • maintaining control measures
  • review control measures

In addition, PCBU that supply plant must:

  • provide safety information

Failing in these duties exposes the PCBU to criminal sanction on a strict liability basis.

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