Beware: Potential Legal Liabilities for Integrating Garage Doors with Home Automation
UL 325-2010 requires garage door controllers provide audible and visual cues for unattended operation. CE Pro asked Ken Kirschenbaum, an attorney that specializes in alarm and low-voltage systems, to address the important safety issues and legal liabilities regarding these home automation features.
For more than a couple of decades, security and home automation professionals have been integrating garage door controls into their systems so that customers could open and close their garage doors from afar. It’s easy to rig up, but not compliant with the latest UL specifications for “unattended operation” of garage doors.
UL 325-2010 requires:
- The feature must be utilized only on an operator equipped with a secondary entrapment protection system such as a photoelectric sensor.
- The feature must be activated only when the operator is installed on a sectional door.
- The operator must be equipped with an audible and visual warning system indicating a pending motion for 5 seconds before the door starts moving.
There have been a rash of new standalone products that do comply with these UL requirements. Chamberlain was the first with a 325-2010-compliant garage door opener in 2013; Linear (now Nortek Security & Control) followed closely with the first UL-compliant standalone garage door control device.
Several UL-compliant garage door controllers have followed, but there are thousands of legacy implementations that do not comply with this latest UL spec. Furthermore, integrators still routinely tie in garage door controllers the old-fashioned way—with a mere relay between the controller and the security/automation system.
Isn’t a standard garage door safety beam good enough? Would an installer be legally liable if a client suffers damages from the unattended operation of a garage door, in the event that the automation device does not comply with 325-2010.
We posed this question to Ken Kirschenbaum, an attorney that specializes in alarm and low-voltage systems, and a regular legal columnist for CE Pro’s sister publication Security Sales and Integration.
Below is his important response.
It’s a great question with broad implication not only for garage door integration, but all integration and security systems as well. It’s not uncommon that equipment installation will fail to conform to suggested manufacturer installation specifications or UL requirements. Not all UL requirements have the force of law behind them, only those incorporated or adopted by local building code. Dealers should, in the first instance, know the requirements for an installation. Then either or both the dealer and subscriber can decide if the installation should be something other than what is required.
Whether we are addressing garage doors or other equipment or systems related to the security system, failure to adhere to codes, ordinances, manufacturer recommendations, UL and other reputable laboratory agencies and custom and practice will lend support for a cause of action in negligence against the alarm dealer. However, generally, failure to adhere to these standards will not impose absolute liability.
Look at in from a presumption perspective. Adhere to all standards and you’re presumed to be free of negligence; the complainant will have the burden of establishing your negligence. But fail to comply with standards and you’ll find yourself with the burden of proving you weren’t negligent. The 50/50 balance shifts.
Alarm dealers should be careful to document the installation, particularly when that installation will not meet some requirements. The Schedule of Equipment and Services will specify deficiencies that the subscriber requests. The Disclaimer Notice will also specify these deficiencies. This will apply to the garage door system as well as any other system or equipment.
There is no question that installing the integrated equipment, in this case the remote garage door activation, will expose liability. Someone could get hurt during operation and if proper installation would have guarded against the injury there is going to be exposure, certainly a lawsuit if the injury is severe enough.
Integration equipment, when installed with the security system, should be installed pursuant to the All in One Agreement, either residential or commercial, If related to the fire alarm system then the Commercial Fire All in One will be the recommended form.
Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum offers these related legal documents for sale HERE:
- Disclaimer Notice
- Residential All in One Agreement
- Commercial Fire All in One Agreement
- Home Automation & Integration
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Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org
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