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Shelbyville woman sues Wal-Mart

Last year, Elizabeth Packard slipped on a pair of Sand-n-Sun flip-flops that she bought from the Shelbyville Wal-Mart.

A short time later, Packard says the sandals caused severe chemical burns on her feet, leaving her with physical and mental pain and suffering, permanent disfigurement, medical expenses and loss of income.

Now Packard is joining others in taking Wal-Mart to federal court over allegedly defective flip-flops.

Packard filed a lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in Lexington against Wal-Mart and the company that made the sandals, Fu qing Yongchao Shoes Leather Goods Co., Ltd. of Hong Kong. The lawsuit also names Claims Management, Inc., an Arkansas corporation that adjusted insurance claims for Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart has faced heavy criticism from other customers nationwide who say they sustained chemical burns from the store's flip-flops. At least one Web site devotes an entire section to photographs of feet with flip-flop shaped burns

Packard is the third Kentucky woman in the past 18 months to file a federal lawsuit in Lexington against the big-box retailer over allegedly harmful footwear. All three cases are pending.

At least one plaintiff in Kentucky sought medical attention for severe redness, discoloration, blistering and swelling between her big toe and the tops of her feet after wearing Wal-Mart flip-flops, according to court records.

"The product clearly shouldn't have been something that should have been on the shelves," said R. Scott Wilder, the attorney who represents the three Kentucky women suing Wal-Mart.

Michelle Bradford, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart, said the company removed Sand-n-Sun flip-flops from its stores in August 2007, and it continues to look into the situation.

"Product safety is a top priority for us at Wal-Mart," Bradford said.

According to the lawsuit, Packard bought the flip-flops in August 2007, but she didn't wear them until about August 31, 2008, when she sustained the burns. Packard filed a consumer statement about her injuries on December 2, 2008, that was given to Wal-Mart and Fuqing, the lawsuit says.

"The 'Sand-N-Sun' brand flip-flop style shoes which are the subject matter of this action were defective at the time of the sale in that the shoes either contained or were contaminated with harmful chemicals, making them unreasonably dangerous to the Plaintiff," the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit says Wal-Mart received notice of the condition of the Sand-n-Sun brand flip-flops before August 2007. But the store "acted maliciously or with reckless disregard" when it continued to market and sell that brand of sandals, the lawsuit states.

Jewelene Templeton of Pathfork and Jennifer Freytes of Lexington filed a similar lawsuit in federal court in May 2008. Both women said they sustained severe chemical burns after wearing flip-flops they bought at the store.

Templeton wore the flip-flops she bought from the Middlesboro Wal-Mart for three days in August 2007 before burns began to appear on her feet, a consumer product incident report states. She visited a Pineville doctor who prescribed medication for the burns. The next day, she visited the emergency room at Pineville Community Hospital because the symptoms worsened. Templeton needed physical therapy to treat the burns on her feet, the report states.

Freytes bought a pair of No Boundaries flip-flops, which are also made by Fu qing, from the Richmond Road Wal-Mart in Lexington in June 2007. Freytes, like Templeton, only wore her flip-flops for three days before she suffered a chemical burn, according to the lawsuit.

In an answer filed in July 2008, Wal-Mart denied responsibility for Freytes' and Templeton's injuries.

Packard, Templeton and Freytes are seeking compensatory and punitive damages and legal fees.