How to Win Compensation for Injuries Caused by Defective Footwear

Here’s how to seek fair compensation when you or your child have been hurt by dangerous shoes, boots, or other defective footwear.

Americans purchase more shoes per person than any other country. On average, including children, we each buy more than seven pairs of shoes every year. ¹

We have dress shoes, casual shoes, work shoes, running shoes, and winter boots. Let’s not forget clogs, sandals, and the well-known flip-flops.

The fastest growing category of shoe sales is in sneakers, also called athletic shoes, with $17.5 billion in annual sales. ²

Most major shoe manufacturers are diligent when designing and manufacturing their products. The last thing a company wants is the public thinking their shoes are dangerous. But mistakes happen, and people of all ages are injured by defective footwear.

Understanding Product Liability

Sneaker and footwear manufacturers have a legal duty of care to do everything reasonably possible to ensure their footwear is not dangerous. When they fail in their duty, and people are injured, the manufacturer is negligent.

When an injured consumer can prove a footwear manufacturer’s negligence, they have the right to claim damages. Damages include medical bills, out-of-pocket medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

When the injured person files a claim or lawsuit against the manufacturer for defective goods, it’s called a product liability claim.

A product liability claim usually involves one or more of these product defects:

  • Design defects are mistakes or flaws built into the shoes when they’re designed.
  • Manufacturing defects can happen when the footwear was properly designed, but there was a mistake while it was being made.
  • Marketing defects happen when the footwear manufacturer doesn’t provide the user with enough information to use the shoe safely, or makes claims about the shoes that are not true.

Case Summary: Shoes Recalled for False Advertising

In 2013 the United States Federal Trade Commission accused the Skechers shoe company of:

“[D]eceptively advertis[ing] its toning shoes, including making unfounded claims that its Shape-ups shoes would help people lose weight, and strengthen and tone their buttocks, legs and abdominal muscles.”

Skechers settled the FTC claim for over $40 million, resulting in refunds paid to more than 500,000 shoe buyers.

Depending on the circumstances, you might also have a claim against the retail store where you bought the defective shoes or boots. But don’t wait too long to file your claim. If you miss the statute of limitations deadline you will be barred from receiving any compensation from the store.

Case Summary: Defective Boot Case Missed Deadline

Kenneth Badilla bought a pair of work boots at Walmart in October 2005. The boots were advertised as “iron tough” and meeting or exceeding government standards for work boots.

Badilla wore the boots every day to his job as a tree trimmer.

After about nine months of wearing the work boots on the job, Badilla was moving a 150-pound log when the sole of his boot came unglued. The boot’s sole caught on some debris, causing Badilla to fall backward and drop the log on himself.

Suffering from ruptured discs that eventually required surgery, Badilla successfully settled his workers’ compensation claim.

More than three years after the injury, Badilla decided to file a lawsuit against Walmart, alleging the store was liable for selling defective shoes that caused his injuries.

Unfortunately, the statute of limitations for injury claims in Badilla’s state is three years. Because Badilla failed to settle a claim or file a lawsuit before the three-year deadline, he lost the right to pursue compensation from Walmart.

Injuries from defective footwear may include:

  • Cuts
  • Sprains and strains
  • Burns
  • Slip and falls
  • Broken bones
  • Wasted money from false advertising

Manufacturer Recalls for Defective Footwear

Sometimes manufacturers recall footwear after discovering a fault in the design or manufacturing process. Ideally, a faulty product is discovered by manufacturers before they send it to market.

Retailers, usually major chain stores, might also recall shoes, boots and other products that might pose a danger to customers. For example, Target is recalling toddler boots because the decorative unicorn attached to the boot is a choking hazard if it comes loose.

Check for product recalls at the government website

Proving a Defective Footwear Claim

If you or your child has been injured by defective footwear, you have every right to seek compensation for your injuries. To win your claim or lawsuit, you’ll need to show:

  1. The manufacturer and retailer had a duty to do everything reasonably possible to make and sell safe shoes, boots, or other types of footwear.
  2. The manufacturer or retailer was negligent and breached their duty to keep you or your child safe.
  3. Their negligence was the direct and proximate cause of the person’s injuries.
  4. The injured person suffered measurable damages.

Footwear manufacturers and sellers have a legal duty to do everything reasonably possible to ensure their products don’t cause injury to users.

The key word is reasonable. Shoe manufacturers are not responsible for every injury that happens to someone wearing their shoes.

You won’t get far with a product liability claim for a sprained ankle that happened while wearing stiletto heels on a sandy beach, even if you blame it on your new shoes.

However, if you can prove a shoe defect directly caused your injuries, you likely have a strong product liability case.

Gathering Evidence of Defective Footwear

The more evidence you collect to support your injury claim, the stronger your case will be. Start collecting evidence as soon as you know there’s a problem with the shoes or boots.

Preserve the Faulty Footwear: Save the sandals, shoes, boots or whatever footwear caused the injuries. Put the footwear in a zip bag or plastic box and don’t let anyone handle it until you speak with a personal injury attorney.

You should also save the box and packaging that came with the shoes, your receipts, and copies of any advertising for the product made by the store or manufacturer.

Get Prompt Medical Attention: The person injured by defective shoes should have a medical evaluation and treatment as soon as possible. Be sure to tell whoever treats you or your child exactly when, where, and how the injuries occurred.

Request copies of all related medical records and bills and save receipts for out-of-pocket expenses. Medical records help establish that the injuries were caused by the defective footwear. Total medical costs are a big part of calculations for compensation.

Take Photographs: Take photographs and video of the footwear, your injuries, and the scene where you were injured.

If you happen to be a star athlete who suffers a Nike shoe blowout, the video replay of your accident will probably be readily available when it goes viral on social media.

Talk to Witnesses: Ask anyone who saw what happened to write statements about the footwear acccident that caused your injuries. Have your witnesses sign and date their written statements.

Prove Your Lost Wages: If you missed time from work because you or your child were injured, ask your employer for verification of your lost wages.

When an Attorney Can Help You Win

If you’ve recovered from minor injuries with little or no medical bills, your potential recovery won’t be worth the cost of a lawsuit. Your best option may be to return the footwear to the store for a refund.

When children are involved, or you don’t know if you have a strong claim, talk to a personal injury attorney about your case.

Whether or not you choose to pursue a product liability lawsuit, you should report dangerous footwear to the authorities.

Defective shoes, boots, and other footwear can be reported to the Consumer Products Safety Commission.

When you purchased shoes made by big manufacturers that pose a danger to hundreds or thousands of people, you may be eligible for compensation from a class action settlement, even if you weren’t hurt. The attorneys who represent you in a class action are skilled at battling huge corporations.

Case Summary: Class Action Over Dangerous Children’s Shoes

In March 2018, Sherry Foster bought a pair of Skechers S-Lights for her nine-year-old son. The shoes have Ni-Cad battery powered lights that “chase and blink with every step.”

Foster describes that after about three months of wearing the shoes, her son came home from his last day of school complaining of pain in his feet. She discovered her son’s feet were red and burned.

She also noticed the sneaker’s lights had stopped working.

The next day, a podiatrist determined the boy was suffering from chemical burns on his feet.

A class action lawsuit was filed November 7, 2018, on behalf of Sherry Foster and others who suffered damages from defective Skechers light-up children’s shoes.

The lawsuit alleges, among other things, that the Skechers company knew the sneaker design and manufacture was defective, and failed to disclose the safety hazards to consumers.

The case is pending in the United States District Court Southern District of New York.

If you or your child have been injured by defective shoes, boots, or sneakers, you won’t get far on your own against mega-manufacturers of name-brand footwear. Big companies have armies of defense lawyers who get paid big bucks to get rid of claimants like you.

Don’t give up and don’t settle for less than you deserve. Get the help you need to win from an experienced personal injury attorney.

Most attorneys represent injured clients on a contingency fee basis, meaning the attorneys don’t get their fees unless you win a financial settlement or jury verdict.

There’s no obligation, and it costs nothing to find out what a good attorney can do for you.

Defective Footwear Questions & Answers

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>