Fashion Failures: Finding Liability For Defective Clothing

While it’s not uncommon to see injuries in college and professional basketball games, it wasn’t a rough play or a tumble on the court that took down Duke University star Zion Williamson during a match against their rivals at North Carolina University . . . it was his own shoes! In the first few minutes of the game, Williamson’s Nike brand shoes fell apart, with the rubber sole coming loose from the rest of the shoe. This caused Williamson to slip and fall on the court, leaving him with a knee injury that forced him to leave the game.

While his team ended up losing the match, Williamson can at least find some consolation in the fact that he earned a Twitter shout-out from Barack Obama, who was in the stands to watch the game. But while receiving well-wishes from a president might be cool, Williamson might have something bigger to think about. Can he find compensation for an injury caused by his shoes?

Clothing Injuries

While thousands of people are injured by defective products each year, shoes and other articles of clothing are not common culprits. However, injuries from dangerous and defective clothing can still occur. Some of the most common clothing-related injuries include:

  • Burns from flammable materials
  • Burns, rashes, or discomfort from chemical irritants in the materials
  • Poisoning from toxic materials
  • Cuts from sharp pieces, like easily breakable buttons
  • Strangulation
  • Choking from small parts, like buttons
  • Slip and falls

Children can be particularly susceptible to injuries from clothing, particularly choking hazards and strangulation. This is because they are more likely to put small pieces in their mouths, and because they are more likely to be unable to free themselves if an article of clothing, like a string from a sweatshirt, becomes stuck on something. However, as Zion Williamson’s injury shows, an injury from a defective article of clothing can strike anyone at any time.

Determining Product Liability

When fashion becomes dangerous, consumers may have some legal rights. Like with all product liability claims, the injured party must show that the clothing actually caused an injury. For example, if someone’s shoe breaks and causes them to fall, but they are able to walk away without any injuries, they might not have a product liability claim because they are not injured. Even though the product was dangerous, the lack of injury impacts their ability to file a claim.

Additionally, an injured person must prove that they were using the product responsibly when the accident occurred. Since there are very few ways to “irresponsibly” wear clothing, this can be a bit easier to determine. If someone is wearing a scarf when it bursts into flames while they are sitting at a dinner table near a lit candle, they might have a product liability claim since they were using the product as intended.

Who is Liable?

When someone has a valid product liability claim, they are many parties that might be responsible for the injury, including:

  • The manufacturer
  • The manufacturer of a certain part of the product, like a factory that makes buttons
  • The store that sold the product

It all depends on who, if anyone, knew or should have reasonably known that the product was dangerous. For example, if a store failed to remove a certain clothing brand from their shelves despite a recall over a flammability hazard, they might be liable for any injuries.

Clothes are an important part of our everyday lives and the idea that a tee shirt, shoe, or other piece of clothing could cause serious injuries is concerning. This is why you should always stay alert for recent recalls and know your rights as a consumer!


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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