Skechers U.S.A., Inc. finds itself staring down a proposed class action lawsuit that alleges the company’s battery-operated light-up sneakers have caused chemical burns to children due to a design defect. Filed in New York federal court, the complaint claims Skechers became aware of the alleged defects in its boys and girls footwear as far back as July 2017 by way of now-removed customer complaints on its website. The suit says that rather than properly inform consumers of the alleged defect, Skechers took steps to keep the issue quiet.
Skechers chose to discontinue problematic styles and flood the market with newer improved designs, all while quietly replacing sneakers of a handful of consumers who raised the dangers of the Defective Sneakers to the Company.”
What does the lawsuit say is wrong with the sneakers?
The lawsuit explains the defendant’s Skechers Kids line of S-Lights light-up sneakers come equipped with Ni-Cad battery-powered lighting built into the shoes’ heel or midsole. Ni-Cad batteries, the suit points out, are “extremely toxic,” rechargeable batteries that are ordinarily lighter and more compact than standard lead-acid batteries.
As a general practice, the case says, a Ni-Cad battery should not be placed in any air-tight spaces. According to the suit, it’s common knowledge that enclosing a Ni-Cad battery prevents cell venting, which can lead to a high-pressure rupture of a battery. Moreover, should water come into contact with a Ni-Cad battery, the complaint says, the battery may begin to rust and generate heat. If a battery becomes rusted, the gas release vent may no longer operate as intended, causing the battery to burst.
“In the event this occurs while a consumer is wearing the product, they will suffer injury, including burns due to the excessive heat,” the case reads.
Was Skechers aware of all this?
The plaintiff, a New York consumer whose nine-year-old son allegedly suffered second-degree burns on his feet due to the alleged defect, says Skechers disregarded the risks associated with using Ni-Cad batteries when designing, manufacturing, marketing and selling its children’s line of light-up sneakers. The company should have known that the combination of sweat from feet and external moisture mixed with an encapsulated battery “presents a clear and present danger for the users of such a product,” according to the complaint. What’s more, the suit chides Skechers for allegedly failing to provide information to customers about care, maintenance, or water-resistance properties of its Ni-Cad battery-containing sneakers.
Skechers’ alleged efforts to keep consumers quiet
According to the suit, Skechers was aware of the design flaws with its light-up sneakers as early as July 2017. It was around this time, the case says, that the company took to routinely contacting consumers who reported problems with their children’s light-up footwear, “offering and providing replacement shoes.” That same year, Skechers reportedly discontinued its S-Lights Flashpod Scoria style of sneaker, though the shoe, the case claims, was still available for purchase at third-party sellers.
Who’s covered by this lawsuit?
The suit asks the court to certify a class of consumers nationwide who purchased Skechers light-up footwear containing an encapsulated Ni-Cad battery between November 7, 2015 and the date of the lawsuit’s resolution.
Note: Consumers generally do not have to do anything to be a part of a class action lawsuit. As this case winds its way through the legal system, ClassAction.org will keep you up to speed.