Legal-Ease: Sharing our possessions with others


By Lee R. Schroeder - Guest Columnist



An amazing aspect of living where we do is that people are usually quite generous with each other.

This generosity includes sharing our possessions. Growing up on a farm during the 1980s farm crisis, I was keenly aware that our farm’s survival — and the survival of most of our neighbors’ farms — relied upon all of us sharing everything from machinery, equipment and tools to labor and ideas.

Of course, the sharing of our possessions is not just a professional custom for the people of our region. Personal items are also often shared with others. It is common for one neighbor to share a weed whacker or trimmer with another neighbor while someone else might borrow or loan garden tools or even the use of a lawnmower.

Like every aspect of life nowadays, sharing our possessions, professionally or personally, includes some legal considerations.

It is usually unquestionably legal to share our possessions with others. However, if an item to be shared is something for which there are legal or licensing requirements to possess or own, sharing that item with someone who is unlicensed or legally unable to possess the item is problematic.

For instance, one neighbor might loan a gun to another neighbor who seeks to remove some groundhogs. If the person borrowing the gun has been convicted of a violent felony or drug crime in the past, loaning a gun to that person will put the loaning person in trouble. And it is probably unnecessary to remind people that sharing prescription drugs is illegal, even if the loaner and the borrower have prescriptions for the same medication.

Nevertheless, when loaning something to someone else is legally allowed almost all the time, is there liability for the person who is loaning the tool or machine?

Typically, if the loaning person is not aware that the loaned item is in a dangerous condition, there is no liability for the loaning person. However, a loaning person’s knowledge of a dangerous condition of a loaned item can lead to liability for the loaning person.

Thus, a person may loan a garden tractor to a neighbor at a time when the loaning person is aware that the brakes on the tractor are faulty or just sometimes do not work perfectly. In that circumstance, if the borrower is injured or if the borrower injures someone else due to the faulty brakes, the loaning person can be legally responsible.

Therefore, it is important to ensure that any item being loaned to someone else is in good and safe working order.

Additionally, proper operation of certain items sometimes requires specific experience or unique knowledge. For instance, a person may loan a chainsaw to someone who has never operated a chainsaw. If the chainsaw user hurts the user or another person, the loaning person can be legally liable.

In other words, someone who loans an item to a borrowing person has some legal responsibility to ensure that the borrower of that item is capable of safely and properly using the loaned item.

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By Lee R. Schroeder

Guest Columnist

Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at [email protected] or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.

Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at [email protected] or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.

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