Son hurt, Pa. woman sues Crocs firm

The Baltimore Sun

A Pennsylvania mother yesterday filed a multimillion-dollar federal lawsuit against the makers of the popular Crocs footwear after her 6-year-old son's shoe was caught and trapped in an escalator at the National Aquarium in Baltimore this spring, mangling his right big toe.

Kerry Burdick, who lives in Eagleville, Pa., claims Colorado-based Crocs Inc. knew its foam clogs were unsafe for escalator travel yet did nothing to warn the public, according to the lawsuit, which seeks more than $7.5 million in damages. It was filed yesterday morning in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

More than 200 people worldwide have reported similar incidents, according to a legal document filed by Crocs Inc. in a separate case, one involving a 3-year-old who broke three toes when her Croc was caught in an Atlanta airport escalator in June. The company, which has said its shoes aren't to blame, did not return a call requesting comment yesterday.

A National Aquarium spokeswoman confirmed that the incident occurred in April but declined to comment further. That same month, days before the Burdicks visited Baltimore, Japan's Trade Ministry announced that it had asked Crocs Inc. to redesign its colorful shoes after receiving 65 complaints about escalator injuries during a six-month period in 2007.

In July, the company said it would add escalator safety warning tags to all of its shoes by spring of next year as part of an awareness campaign.

"Escalator entrapments have occurred for more than 40 years, far longer than Crocs has been in business, and these accidents often are preventable," Ron Snyder, president and chief executive of Crocs Inc., said in a statement at the time.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission concluded in a May warning that flexible clogs are more likely to pose a risk than other shoes. Of the 77 incidents reported to the agency between January 2006 and May 2007, all but two involved Croc-style shoes, which seem to get caught most when entering or exiting an escalator, or if the wearer's foot is too close to the side.

"This is a newer product on the market that poses a risk, and we felt it was responsible to let consumers know," CPSC spokeswoman Julie Vallese told a Consumer Reports blogger. "It's not the shoe causing the injury but an unintentional risk when using an escalator."

"If you go buy Crocs in the spring of '09, you'll get a warning. What about the 5 million pairs of Crocs sold without the warning? These are all parents who don't know" about the risk, said Burdick's New York attorney, Andrew Laskin.

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