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First Circuit Dismisses Massachusetts’ Products Liability Claim For Failing To Show Inherent Danger In Crocs — Geshke v. Crocs, INC.

croc_elevatorEveryday we purchase products, and when we purchase these products we expect that they are safe and will not cause us injury. These injuries can come from the everyday hazards of life; however, sometimes the injury comes from an inherent defect in the product we purchased.

If you have been injured by the failure of a product, you are encouraged to speak with a local Cape Code products liability lawyer with the experience to protect your rights and get you the compensation you deserve.

Generally, products liability cases come in two flavors. A manufacturing defect is a defect in a specific product that causes injury. A defective design is a design flaw that causes injury usually in a line of products. Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, deciding under substantive Massachusetts law, found that the plaintiff did not bring evidence to support a defective design claim against Crocs shoes. In Geshke v. Crocs, INC., a nine year-old girl had been wearing Crocs on an escalator when the shoes became entangled in the escalator causing injury to the girl’s foot. The family brought a products liability claiming that Crocs had an inherent design flaw causing them to become entangled in escalators and, knowing this, failed to either redesign the shoes or adequately warn against the danger.

Crocs brought a motion to dismiss. Examining both the design failure and the warning failure, the court held that the plaintiff failed to adequately claim that Crocs had an inherent design flaw. In order to bring a products liability claim in Massachusetts, a plaintiff must show some breach of a legally cognizable duty. The question the court was trying to resolve was whether the plaintiff’s evidence supported a claim that the injury was caused by an inherent design flaw in the shoes and not a general danger of riding escalators. The plaintiff must make some evidentiary showing that Crocs poses a heightened risk of escalator injury.

The plaintiffs produced dozens of complaints from families where children had been injured by Crocs getting caught in escalators. The court was hesitant to treat the complaints as anything other than anecdotal and found that they did not have the probative value to show an inherent design flaw in Crocs.

The plaintiffs also brought a special study from Japan that did a side by side analysis of resin based sandals. First, the court noted that the plaintiffs failed to bring an expert to authenticate or explain the study. Furthermore, the court felt the evidence failed to show a particular design flaw in Crocs but a problem with using resin based sandals in general. The plaintiffs also provided an email from the Japanese branch of Crocs requesting a design change to the Japanese brand in light of the study. The court stated that a change in design based upon a regulatory request did not in itself indicate an admission of a design flaw.

Finally, the plaintiffs argued that the warnings about escalators stamped into certain brands of Crocs could prove a knowledge of a design flaw. The court again found that the tag did not provide specific evidence of a inherent danger in Crocs, and the warning, reading in general terms, warned of the general dangers of escalators.

The court dismissed the case holding that the family failed to demonstrate an heightened risk of danger in Crocs that caused their child’s injury. We respect the court but disagree with the court’s finding, and a jury could have been able to evaluate the evidence and make a finding.

If you have been injured by a product that you purchase, it is recommended that you speak with a qualified products liability attorney that will protect your rights and get you the compensation that you deserve.

Local attorney, John C. Manoog III, has extensive experience handling products liabiility claims. For a free initial consultation, call the office at 888-262-6664 or reach us by email. There is always someone available to talk to you about your case.

Additional Resources:
Products Liability, 2014, Legal Information Institute

Crocs shoes dangerous on escalators., Apr. 19, 2008, Japan Times

Related Blog Posts:
Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Rules Property Owner May Be Liable for Certain Open and Obvious Hazards — Dos Santos v. Coleta, Nov. 27, 2013, Cape Cod Injury Lawyer Blog

Massachusetts Transvaginal Mesh Lawsuit Moves Forward, Oct. 16, 2013, Cape Cod Injury Lawyer Blog