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From Products Liability Law Daily, July 6, 2015

“Shape-ups” wearer runs out of time to file design defect claims

By Pamela C. Maloney, J.D.

Louisiana’s one-year statute of limitations barred a products liability claim brought by the purchaser of toning tennis shoes against the manufacturer in which she alleged that the shoes had caused her fall and subsequent injury, a federal district court in Kentucky ruled (In re Skechers Toning Shoe Products Liability Litigation (Brown v. Skechers U.S.A. Inc., June 30, 2015, Russell, T.).

Background. On March 18, 2011, Aldonia Brown fell and twisted her left ankle while wearing Shape-ups tennis shoes. She filed several claims against Skechers U.S.A., Inc., Skechers U.S.A. Inc. II, and Skechers Fitness Group on October 31, 2013. Her case was consolidated in the federal district court in Kentucky along with over one thousand cases for purposes of determining preliminary matters as part of multidistrict litigation. Skechers moved for summary judgment of Brown’s claims on statute of limitations grounds.

Statute of limitations. Under Louisiana law, the prescriptive period for products liability actions is one year. However, Louisiana has adopted the doctrine of contra non valentem which provides that prescription does not commence running until the facts necessary to state a cause of action are known or reasonably knowable to the plaintiff. In this case, the purchaser admitted that she was aware on the day of her injury that her Shape-ups contributed to her fall. She also acknowledged at deposition that one of her treating doctors told her in the weeks after her fall that the Shape-ups contributed to her fall. Despite these admissions, the purchaser argued that the instability of the Shape-ups was caused by a relatively soft midsole—a fact she could not have known about at the time of her injury—and that this “unawareness” as to causation prevented her from realizing she had a claim.

The court explained that although the consumer’s theory has been accepted in Louisiana courts, it appears to have been limited to medical malpractice cases, in which the link malpractice and the development of a disease is hidden inside the body. In this case, the purchaser was aware that the Shape-ups were unstable and might have caused her fall. The purchaser did not need to understand the exact science which caused the shoes to be unstable to know the shoes were unstable. Because the purchaser knew of the facts which formed the basis of her claim on or shortly after her fall on March 18, 2011, her October 31, 2013, filing was past Louisiana’s one-year statute of limitations. Thus, the court granted the manufacturer’s motion for summary judgment.

The case is Master File No. 3:11-MD-2308-TBR, MLD No. 2308; Case No. 3:13-CV-1075-TBR

Attorneys: Martin Daniel Crump (Davis & Crump PC) for Aldonia Brown. Jill F. Endicott (Dinsmore & Shohl LLP) for Skechers U.S.A., Inc., Skechers U.S.A., Inc. II, and Skechers Fitness Group.

Companies: Skechers U.S.A., Inc.; Skechers U.S.A., Inc. II; Skechers Fitness Group

MainStory: TopStory SofLReposeNews SportsandRecEquipmentNews KentuckyNews

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