The Association for Qualitative Research
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Issue of onus

Public liability has got me worried. I haven't yet got much further than worrying about it, but one of this piece's aims is to enlist your help in finding a sensible solution to an issue that affects each and every one of us.

Mike Imms ponders the issue of public liability

Just to clarify, I'm talking about public liability (damage/injury done during the research), not professional indemnity (advising clients they'll make a fortune with a new product which then bombs in the market).

So picture these examples of everyday qualitative research situations. At a hotel in Farnham, the room is strewn with bloody dozens of the client's concrete paving slabs and the manager sas "I hope my carpet is alright under there". He reminds me later that, as hirer of the room, I'm responsible.

In Sutton Coldfield, housewives tuck in to NPD yogurts that have sat in the boot of my car for several hours, warming nicely. I recall signing the delivery note from the client which passed to me the responsibility for safe keeping, and idly wonder if anyone will sue me if they get food poisoning.

Further south, I know the recruitment screened out those with "sensitive skin" or who use hypoallergenic products, but what happens if any of these Brighton DIYers breaks out in a rash from using those hand wipes I've just passed round?

In each case I reckon I could find myself facing a liability claim, and you can probably substitute your own specific examples. So what I need, I guess, is public liability insurance and I would appreciate a helping hand. If you could send me names, details and phone numbers of insurance compnaies which have policies for "public liable" people like us, we'll pass on your suggestions in the next issue.

Mike Imms