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Geshke v. Crocs, Inc. – Product Liability Case Thwarted for Lack of Duty to Warn

Feb 1, 2014 - Dangerous Products/Liability by

Product liability lawsuits in Tuscaloosa must undergo a rigorous evaluation by a judge before the case can be heard by a jury.
escalator
The exact elements of what you must prove are going to depend on the particular circumstances of your case. Generally speaking, though, product liability claims contain four basic elements:

  • That you suffered some kind of damage or injury;
  • That the product involved was either defective or lacked proper instructions or warnings;
  • That the defect or lack of warning was the specific cause of your incurred injuries or damages;
  • That at the time of the injury or damage, you were using the product more or less in the manner for which it was advertised and/or intended.

Before you have a chance to present your case to the jury, though, you must show that there is substantial evidence to support your claim. This is a critical part of the process, as your case won’t move forward if the judge believes the evidence doesn’t meet this criteria.

That was unfortunately the scenario for the plaintiff in Geshke v. Crocs, Inc., a case recently reviewed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

The case involves allegedly defective footwear and its danger when used on escalators.

According to court records, the injury occurred in the summer of 2010. At that time, the plaintiff and her family were visiting Boston. Her daughter, age 9, was wearing Crocs, a brand of shoe. These sandals are a type of soft-soled resin clog.

As the girl descended on the escalator, her right foot became trapped in the side of the moving stairwell. Amid the girl’s screams, a transit worker tried unsuccessfully to shut down the escalator. A person nearby rushed over to help, freeing her before she reached the bottom of the comb plate. She still sustained serious injuries.

The girl’s family contend the shoes never came with any warning regarding escalator entrapment.

The girls’ mother said the shoe manufacturer was negligent in its design, failed to warn of potential dangers and breached the implied warranty of merchantability. It was alleged that the shoe company knew of these dangers and failed to redesign the product or provide appropriate warnings.

Following the pretrial discovery phase, the defendant requested a summary judgment, which was granted. The plaintiff appealed, continuing forward with only claims of failure to warn and breach of an implied warranty of merchantability.

To recover a claim for negligence, the plaintiff carries the burden of providing proof to show duty, breach, causation and damages.

In this case, the appellate court found the plaintiff failed to establish a duty owed by the defendant to the plaintiff. While generally speaking, the maker of a product does have a duty to warn consumers of inherent product dangers, that duty exists when there is a reason to suppose a warning is needed. However, the court found that in this case, there was no indication that the shoe manufacturer knew or should have known that these sandals posed a heightened risk of escalator entrapment.

The court found this to be the case even though the company had received a number of previous complaints regarding escalator entrapment. (The court reasoned that it was unknown whether other shoe companies had received just as many if not more complaints of the same ilk. Plus, the prior incident reports were vague, and fell short of establishing clear causation between wearing the shoes and becoming entrapped in an escalator.)

Additional Resources:

Geshke v. Crocs, Inc., Jan. 17, 2014, First Circuit Court of Appeals

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