Crocs escalator update: $7 million lawsuit filed

By Paul Michael on 8 February 2008 (Updated 11 February 2008) 28 comments
Photo: Wisebread

More news from the dangerous world of Crocs shoes. It was reported by the Daily News yesterday that a $7 million lawsuit has been filed by the parents of an injured 3yr old girl. Her big toe was mangled in an escalator accident at JFK airport back in November of 2007, and her angry parents want Crocs to pay.

As some of you may know, I've been following this case for a while (read my two articles here and here ). As much as I love Crocs shoes for adults, I think mixing this sticky material with a loose-fiiting design and young children is a recipe for disaster. I'm not alone, and the evidence is building for Crocs to stop making shoes for kids.

Andrew Laskin, the lawyer representing 3yr old Emma Hochberg and her parents, had this to say:

"The skin was peeled off her toe," lawyer Andrew Laskin said. "It's a pretty horrifying injury. And it's also horrible for a parent to witness your child injured in this way and suffering."

"Just because a pair of shoes comes in pretty colors with Disney characters on it doesn't make it safe," Laskin said. "This is something Crocs has known ... for a considerable period of time yet consciously decided to ignore."

I'm particularly close to the Crocs ongoing story because they are based right here in Colorado, my place of work and residence. A spokesperson for Crocs said:

"Escalator safety is an issue we take very seriously, and we are looking into this report."

Let's hope they look deeply enough to make sure this doesn't happen again. In the meantime, please take great care if your children are wearing these Crocs shoes. If they're going to a mall or other building with escalators, it's probably a good idea to put them in more sturdy footwear. Stay safe people.

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Guest's picture
Guest

As a parent of small children, living in Arizona where we wear flip-flops year round, I am perfectly aware that if you don't put your kids in sturdy shoes, and they get hurt, then the fault if yours, not the shoe manufacturer's. I think that may be where the problem of Crocs lies - they look sturdy, but they aren't...still there's a lot to be said for common sense.

Guest's picture
Guest

My husband works in elevator/escalator construction and repair. Most people view escalators as perfectly safe. They are not. The guys are always going to to repair escalators and are picking out bits of toes, and fingers which get cut off. Parents constantly let their children play around these things and whenever one of the repair guys cautions the parents he would get met with anger by the parents. I did not let my kids on escalators until they were over five years old and even now, I monitor all the time where their toes and fingers are and I constantly speak to them about being safe while they are on them. What do you all think those brushes on the sides of the escalator are for????? If the average person knew what the repairman's family knew, they wouldn't blame the shoes or the shoe company.

Guest's picture
Guest

I really enjoy most of this blog's content, but I have to disagree with the gist of this post. You pick up a Croc, you can see that it's marshmallow soft (nice!) super light weight, cheap and easy on/off. But protective? Hardly. Same with Tevas, Gellies, $.99 flip flops... is that the fault of the shoemaker? Hardly! The escalator company maybe, for creating a design that can pinch little toes, but I can't see any reasonable adult expecting a soft foam shoe to keep little piggies safe from much of anything. (Ever worn Crocs in cactus country?) Common sense, America. Not lawsuits.

Guest's picture
iPosty

Seriously.. $7million? does no one else think that's obscene? As some of the other commenters have noted, not all shoes are safe.. heck, if you look at MOST shoes today they're probably not safe.

Keeping your kids safe on an escalator is the parent's job!

Her foot could have just as easily slipped out of a any shoe by Nike or Reebok, or been caught barefoot in the escalator..

It's maddening that a decent company, making a product people want (that I actually think are horribly ugly) is going to be dragged through the courts because the parents are irresponsible..

Guest's picture
Guest

This is just another example of people trying to pass the blame and responsibility of something onto someone else (and apparently trying to get a decent chunk of change with it.) Croc's just create and manufacture the shoes. What you do with them is your choice and your responsibility.

If the mother is going to sue Croc for producing what she thinks is a shoddy shoe, why isn't she sueing the escalator company for taking a chunk out of her daughter's foot?

Guest's picture
Jen

This was also posted on Gothamist.

Guest's picture
jlene18

Oh come on...blaming the shoe company? Or the escalator company? Why can't parents take responsibility for their children? Teach your children how to properly get on, ride on, and get off the escalator, and THEN teach them not to play around near machinery of ANY type, including said escalators. This teaches the child self-responsibility, and I SWEAR you will not be digging your childrens' body parts out of machinery or dragging them to the hospital.

The same thing was said about railroad tracks when I was younger (I'm 27 now)...if they'd only fence the area off or if the trains would go slower near people, or even up to blaming the people driving them. My father works for a railroad company and you know what the solution was? To, in graphic detail, describe just what would happen if we played around the tracks. Do you know that NONE of us have ever had problems near them? Same as the escalators, NONE of us (I'm oldest of 4) have had problems with escalators - even in flip-flops! And my own daughter, who is 3 now, has NO problem with escalators - because we're ALWAYS with her, and because she doesn't get to play on or near them.

Take some responsibility, parents!

Guest's picture
Guest

Escalators, food processors, egg beaters, fan belts, fan blades, baggage carousels elevators, automobiles, motorcycles, electric appliances, electrical outlets.... have the ability to be extremely dangerous meat mincers or debilitating devices when improperly used. A three year old child has no comprehension of the unfortunate consequences for the misuse of mechanical systems. Perhaps the shoe company and escalator manufacturer should pursue a $7M nigligence suit against the parent(s). Such legal precedent would reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits costing taxpayers hundreds of millions annually and revert thinking 30 years to a time when parents disiplined an unattentive child facing imminant danger with a sobering swat in the ASS. I recently witnessed an ignorant dog owner pull a 5lb. lap dog onto an escalator by the leash with the full expectation the mutt would weigh 2.5 lbs minus it's two front paws at the base. Fortunately the dog was snatched into the air dangling by the neck from it's leash when I warned the individual of the potential consequence.

Guest's picture
Guest

If I had the people who say its the parents fault for letting kids "play"on escalators I would quite happily wipe the self righteous look off their faces.
Yesterday my five year old had her croc ripped off her foot and digested by an escaltor at Schipol airport Amsterdam. At the time sher was walking normally,holding my right hand. Her father was less than a half meter behind her. She was most definitely NOT playing or doing anything irresponsible. As she stepped off the end of the escaltor we think the weight of her body on the soft shoe caused the material of the shoe to press down into the grooves of the stair. This caused the shoe to be sandwiched between the step she was on and the housing of the escalatror. It literally swallowed the entire front of her croc to the strap. The results were horrifying. I am not suing anyone but I do want to alert every parent i know to the dangers of using escaltors whilst wearing ANY soft shoe.
I CAN understand the anger with Crocs though. They are not the only manufacturer of soft shoes but their produt is a massive hit with kids. I have read today they have obviously know of this danger for several years but they have done nothing to alert their customers to the particular risks.

My point - don't judge the parents until you understand the whole picture. I spent years wokrign as a Police officer and I have attended many tragic accidents involving kids so I have preached to my children of the dangers of escalators but I certainly never could have foreseen the type of accident that my daughter endured yeseterday.

Guest's picture
Carol

Yes indeed, no one wants to be responsibile for their own bad parenting, but everyone will take the money. And the really sad thing -- Croc's WILL pay these people some money just to make this go away and guess who gets to pay Croc's insurance company back -- BINGO -- you silly people who buy those ugly things.

Guest's picture
sylrayj

From what I've seen, the issue is that the shoes are a bit sticky on the outside particularly if they get warm, and are designed to be worn loose. From what I've seen, a three year old doesn't have very long arms, and would need to stand close to the edge of the escalator in order to hold the handrail as we're all instructed.

Did everyone always know what crocs do when they touch the side of an escalator? Did everyone know how close young children have to stand to the sides, and that their shoes would touch even if they weren't deliberately that close? Because they'd all have to know, for this to be a common sense issue. Until I read about it, I didn't think about risks to health care workers of *things* falling into their shoes through the holes when they wore crocs, and I'd have to assume they didn't think about it much either. I didn't think about those shoes melting in a hot car, either, until I'd read about it.

Cheap, comfortable shoes that don't look really fragile to me, which enclose the foot enough that ventilation is important - I suppose I should be called terribly stupid or something, because they don't appear to be dangerous, and yet they are.

Guest's picture
Ken

Perhaps an advocate for the child should sue the mother for being negligent.

Guest's picture

as much as I feel sorry for the little girl and her pain...it is the parent's fault...possibly the design of the escalator...here we go again in our society...always wanting to blame someone else instead of taking responsibility for your own actions...this is just as bad as suing McDonald's for the hot coffee...and who is going to pay if the parents win? We will eventually...yet again!

Paul Michael's picture

I am well aware that the US is a very litigious society, and that everyone gets sued for the slightest thing (I agree, the McDonalds coffee incident was riciculous...it was hot coffee for crying out loud). However, how many parents know just how poorly protected their children's feet are in Crocs? And those brushes on escalators don't automatically mean "warning, stay away" to a young child. This is just a whole combination of small factors that is making for some nasty accidents. At the end of the day, I just don't want to see any more Crocs-related accidents in the newspapers. I think we'd all like that.

Guest's picture
Nic Wise

... who was horrified by a) the incident and b) the complete lack of personal responsibility in the US. I'm glad I'm not alone (and, I'd guess, most of the posters here are from the US, which changes my mind about them even more :) )

I wonder if parents would sue Transport for London (who run the underground) if an kid jumped/fell off a platform and was zapped by the middle rail.... and if TfL would then turn around and charge them for the downtime and on-the-track fines (which I think is around £2000).

anyway....

Guest's picture
Guest

Perhaps people wearing shoes who get their foot stuck should sue to. I mean those pesky shoe strings could get caught in an escalator pretty easy.

Guest's picture
Guest

The thing that gets me about this story is not the safety issue, but I tend to side with faulting the parents.

What I think is absolutely appalling is the $7 million they are trying to get out of it. I have 3 small children and I know first hand how badly you feel when they are in an accident. I know you want to blame everybody in the world, but the truth is no amount of money will bring back the little girl's toe. I would like to see the courts do away with money for pain & suffering. Yes, they should pay the medical bills, legal fees, but no pain & suffering. I believe Austrailia has already adopted this policy, can anyone out there confirm this?

Guest's picture

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Guest's picture
Shazeya

My 6 year old son's toes got caught in the escalator while he was wearing crocs in a mall in Bangkok on 9th July 2008. It was the most traumatic incident for him, us and our little girl. We couldnt figure out what caused this until i got on the internet and researched this. I want the shoe company to accept responsibilty of something which is very obviously their fault since so many parents cannot has experienced the identical situation.

Guest's picture
knavekid

The problem with the escalators (and moving sidewalks) is that the platform moves while the sides are stationary. If they were to design a wide belt on the sides that moves with the platform, there would be no speed differential and nothing for soft shoes or toes to grab against.

Guest's picture
Guest

Teach your kids a healthy habit. Try taking the STAIRS instead of the escalator.

Guest's picture
Guest

Interesting views from all of you who blame the parents. Maybe they are at fault, maybe not. However, my wife and I were quietly standing with our children last night whilst riding down the escalator. They were behaving and standing still. Each of us had a hand and everything seemed fine until my daughter screemed as loud as I have ever heard from a child and her right foot (with a pair of pinks crocs on) suddenly was torn backwards and her foot along with shoe proceeded to be essentially eating by the escalator. A broken big toe, dislocated toes, skin peeled from the bottom of her toes and 2 large lacerations across the top of her foot. A terrible mess. However, I can ensure you that we could not have watched her any closer. Whether it is the escalator or the crocs fault we are investigating. However, you should keep your comments about bad parenting to yourself and maybe offer an opinion after you and your child go through what my family did last night!!!!!! Not seeking to sue by the way only encouraging you to shut your trap!

Guest's picture
Jawsh

Honestly.. im scared to death of escalators to begin with.. i mean the average escalator weighs 12 tons. Anytime 12 tons of metal are moving and pinching things, I am out! I think fatass Americana should be taking more stairs anyway.

Sorry bout ur kids...

Guest's picture
Guest

Many people love to walk barefoot aroind the house as I do; however, breaking five toes over 15 years by hitting the edged of the bed and furniture convinced me to buy a pair of Crocs in 2006.

Voila! No more broken toes despite multiple run-ins with beds and furniture and the feeling of being almost barefoot.

Crocs shoes do have a protective benefit that few people talk about, especially self-serving lawyers.

Guest's picture
Guest

Response to comment #20. WAKE UP YUPPIE. The escalator steps are be propelled by an electrical motor the size of the engine in a small car. The step off landing is stationary. Think of a common paper cutter or scissors for that matter. When the moving parts interact with the stationary object, voila the results are similar to your childs injury. Perhaps the educational system in this country should make PHYSICS 101 a mandatory couse of study from pre-kindergarden. You as parent have the responsibility to keep your youngster safe by alerting them and reacting if necessary to ward of potential mishaps/injury to your child much as the owner of dog crosses the street with their pet on a leash to protect that animal from oncoming traffic as most pets are not aware of the imminent danger.

Guest's picture
Zhao

People, it's easy to point fingers at the parents. Saying, "You ought to know better".
That MIGHT be appropriate, if there was only a couple of incidents like these. But, the numbers already says it all. These can and will happen again, unless precautions and/or safety measures were taken. Or maybe you want to join the lawsuit act later yourself?
They are our people.
They are us.

Guest's picture
Annoyed

My 8 year old daughter had both of her crocs stuck in the escalator over the summer. Both caught in the toes. My thought at the time was that I should do what I could to help Crocs identify the issue, so I tooks lots of pics and contacted them. I found the response from the customer service manager to be as (if not more so) upsetting than the initial incident. My daughter had the straps flipped to the front and was able to hop out of the Crocs without injury, so I expected a friendly exchange with Crocs.

This escalator had recently been completely overhauled and had a new surface less than 3 months old. My daughter was right behind me and wasn't (for once) messing around. She was just standing there. It was not a side entrapment, but instead the toes of both shoes were caught when the steps flattened out.

Here's Croc's they responded (note the lame attempt to intimidate me into not forwarding it):

Subject: FW: Crocs stuck in escalator-ATTORNEY CLIENT PRIVILEGED PLEASE DO NOT FORWARD

Dear XXXXX,

Thank you for providing us with this information. We are sorry to learn of your daughter's experience wearing Crocs footwear and are thankful that she was not injured. We are committed to the safety of our customers, which is the top priority for our company. Crocs shoes are safe and do not present a hazard. Crocs continues to monitor the use and safety performance of its footwear.

Crocs has launched an escalator safety awareness initiative which includes the implementation of educational hang tags on Crocs products worldwide. We're doing this because Crocs cares about the safety, comfort and satisfaction of consumers and the popularity of our shoes give us an opportunity to educate millions of our customers on the importance of escalator safety.

There is no evidence Crocs are more likely to become entrapped in escalators than other soft-soled shoes. In fact, although tens of millions of pairs of Crocs shoes have been purchased in the U.S. in the last five years, there has been no corresponding increase in the number of reported escalator shoe entrapment injuries, based on our analysis of U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission data.

The most important safety factors for escalators and moving walkways are safe rider behavior and proper maintenance of escalators. Our new hang tag messages are designed to address safe riding behavior. We also intend to support organizations that further the cause of proper escalator installation and maintenance. For instance, testing by others, including the CPSC indicates that periodic lubrication of the escalator's side panels can reduce the risk of entrapments.

Consumer safety is a top priority at Crocs, which is why we plan to share escalator safety messages with our customers. You can expect to see the new messages begin to appear on hang tags for Crocs shoes sold worldwide during the next six months.

Thank you for the pictures and information that you provided. You state that your daughter's Crocs shoes were damaged. We would be happy to send you a free replacement pair. Please e-mail me with the size and model/color preference to XXXXX@crocs.com.

We hope that you and your family will continue to be loyal Crocs customers for years to come.

Sincerely,

XXXX XXXX
Customer Service Manager

Guest's picture
Guest

It is the parent's fault for first buying the shoes and second for letting the child get too close to the edge of the elevator. It looks like they just want to get rich off of there child's injury!!! 7 million dollars are you serious, what has this nation come to!!!