Most of us don’t give a second thought to our shoes as we put them on each morning. We take for granted they will hold up on the sidewalks and office floors we walk over every day.
What we don’t think about is the fact that hundreds of people are injured every year because of defectively designed or manufactured shoes. Injuries caused by defective footwear can be serious, such as broken bones and head injuries from falls.
Most major shoe manufacturers are diligent when designing and manufacturing their products. The last thing a company wants is the public thinking one of their shoes is dangerous. But, mistakes happen, and even the most reputable companies can unknowingly send a defective shoe to retailers.
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.
Unfortunately, recalls are most often prompted by reports from customers who suffer injuries. In rare cases, recalls don’t occur until seriously injured customers file lawsuits against the manufacturer.
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, those manufacturers are said to be negligent. These cases are referred to as product liability cases.
When an injured consumer can prove a footwear manufacturer’s negligence, he may have a right to claim damages. These can include the consumer’s medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses (bandages, OTC medications, etc.), lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Here are some examples of sneaker and footwear lawsuits:
Example: Chemical irritant
Jane filed a lawsuit against Spody Top Sider company and the local retail store where she purchased the shoes. She alleged that within two days of wearing the shoes she had “severe irritation, itching, and blistering.” The symptoms were so bad she had to go to the emergency room for treatment.
Jane’s attorney found records revealing that the line of shoes were contaminated with a chemical irritant, which caused the same painful symptoms in other customers. It was revealed that Spody knew about the contamination, but didn’t think it was serious enough for a recall. The lawsuit was eventually settled for an undisclosed sum.
Example: Broken shoe causes fall
The parents of a teenage boy sued the manufacturer of Crawk shoes and the retail store where the shoes were sold. They alleged that while going down an escalator, one of the shoes broke apart. As it did, a broken piece of the shoe got caught in the escalator’s mechanism.
The boy was propelled forward and fell face-first onto the escalator steps beneath him. He suffered a concussion, fractured skull, and deep lacerations to his forehead.
During the trial it was learned the manufacturer had received over two hundred previous complaints from consumers who purchased the same shoe. Those consumers complained of the same breakage problem.
According to the manufacturer’s intra-company records, instead of issuing a recall, Crawk quietly refunded the consumers’ money. The company decided the profit they would make would more than cover the few lawsuits which might be filed. The lawsuit was eventually settled for an undisclosed sum.
If you are contemplating a small claims lawsuit, or are considering retaining an attorney to sue the manufacturer or retailer, you will need evidence.
Evidence to help your case:
- Save the footwear which caused your injuries.
- Take photographs of the footwear, your injuries, and the scene where you were injured.
- Ask eye-witnesses to write statements about how they saw the footwear cause your injuries. Have your witnesses sign and date their statements.
- Gather copies of your medical records and bills, receipts for out-of-pocket expenses, and verification of your lost wages.
Do you need an attorney?
Depending on the severity of your injuries, you have several options:
- If your injuries aren’t serious, such as minor blistering or rashes that disappear after a day or two, you can ask the retail store for a refund, or the manufacturer for an exchange. With minor injuries, legal action isn’t feasible.
- If your injuries are more serious, such as a sprained ankle, and you aren’t happy with just a refund or exchange, you can file a small claims lawsuit. Small claims courts’ maximum award limits range from $1,500 to $10,000, depending upon the state.
- If your injuries are very serious, such broken bones, head trauma, permanent scarring, etc., you must retain a personal injury attorney with experience in product liability cases.
Manufacturers and retailers will not pay out large settlements unless forced. Winning a product liability case in court requires filing a lawsuit, seeking depositions, subpoenaing records, and actually trying the case. You don’t have the legal expertise necessary to handle these tasks. If you’ve been seriously injured, meet with an attorney as soon as possible.
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