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First Circuit Rules CROCS Did Not Need Warning Label In Massachusetts Product Liability Case

In July of 2010, a family from California utilized the Mass Transit Authority’s services and took an escalator down into the station.  As the family rode the descending escalator, the family’s minor daughter got her sandal caught into the moving stairway.  Onlookers rushed to help the child in need.  The daughter’s foot was freed before meeting the bottom of the escalator, but unfortunately, not before resulting in severe damage to her foot.  The family brought suit in Federal Court against the manufacture of the specific brand of sandals- CROCS.  Amongst the allegations, the family alleged that CROCS have a heightened risk of safety to the wearers of the sandals while riding escalators and that the manufacture had failed to warn of this risk to consumers.

The United States Court of Appeals was charged with deciding whether CROCS pose a heightened risk of escalator entrapment, thus rendering the footwear defective.  Under Massachusetts law, a consumer who has been injured by a product may bring a claim alleging negligence against the manufacturer- this is generally known as a products liability action.  Much like sandals come in different colors and styles- so too are products liability claims.  A consumer may allege that the product contained a manufacturing defect, a design defect, and/or failed to adequately warn prospective users of a danger associated with that product’s use.  Each will be discussed in turn.

A manufacturing defect, generally, means that the product departed from the intended design of the manufacturer in some respect.  Put differently, the product did not conform to the way it was supposed to have turned out.  For an illustration- imagine an assembly line of soup cans.  Each can is designed to be 8” in height, have a label, and a lid securely fastened to the top of the can.  This is the intended design.  If one can of soup departs from this design and somehow develops a jagged lip to the top of the can- unlike any other soup can or its design- this would be known as a manufacturing defect.

Unlike a manufacturing defect in which the product departed from its intended blueprint- a design defect alleges that the product came out exactly as intended.  However, it needs to be shown that this particular design is inherently dangerous.  Sticking with the soup can analogy- a design defect would be present if the manufacturer intended that all cans of soup would have a jagged edge.  A product is defective in design if it is foreseeable that the product could pose a harm, and that harm could be avoided by utilizing an alternative, safer design.

Finally, a failure to warn claim asserts that the product has a defect that was not adequately warned against.  A manufacture has a responsibility to give adequate warnings and instructions regarding the nature and extent of uses of that product.  For example, failing to warn that a cleaning product may result in serious injury if it is ingested may be compensable if it is foreseeable that a person would ingest the cleaning product.

The court in the Geshke v. Crocs case found that the family failed to meet its burden by failing to demonstrate that the footwear was particularly dangerous on escalators.  As a result, any warning on the footwear would be unnecessary.  So while the court stated that, “CROCS are odd looking shoes”, they are not inherently dangerous to give rise to a products liability action.  If interested you can read the full holding of the in this case the entire decision can be found by clicking here.

If you believe you have a products liability case, our office can help you pursue your claim.  To schedule a free consultation with lawyer Daniel Cappetta, call our office today at (508) 969-9505 or fill out or contact form available on the right side of this page.  For more information you can also visit the firm website.