SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- A San Diego family is questioning the safety of child-sized shopping carts at Lazy Acres Natural Market.
They say their son's finger was badly injured after one fell over during a shopping trip.
"It was awful," said Heidi Pringle. "It was really scary."
The sound of a child screaming in pain sends shivers down a parent's spine. Pringle said that shriek of terror came from her then six-year-old son Quinn.
"He had seen his finger, and he kept asking me if it was going to fall off," she said, remembering the day in 2018 when she took her two kids shopping at Lazy Acres Natural Market in the Mission Hills area of San Diego. It was a grocery store they frequented.
Pringle said she let her son Quinn push a miniature shopping cart designed for children to use.
A few minutes into the grocery trip, Pringle said she heard a loud bang. She looked over, and Quinn was on the ground screaming.
"I get emotional. He was really strong, but you know it (the pain) would go in waves that he would cry and scream and ask if his finger was going to fall off, and I just tried my best to keep him calm," Pringle said.
She filed a lawsuit against Lazy Acres and the company that makes the kids' shopping cart, The Peggs Company. The lawsuit says the companies "owed a duty to Plaintiff Quinn Pringle, a foreseeable user of the child-size shopping cart, and other minor consumers to act with reasonable care to prevent them from suffering harm while using the cart."
A court filing by the Pringle family says, "Subsequent to the Bristol Farms employee's disregard of Quinn pushing himself up on the handle of the Kiddie Cart, Quinn again pressed his weight on the front handle, making a turn along the dotted bee line with the Kiddie Cart. This time, the Kiddie Cart tipped over with Quinn's right hand sliding to the right side and down the Kiddie Cart where the Flagpole is clamped to the Kiddie Cart. Quinn remembers his right middle finger being hurt at the Flagpole. Quinn suffered a serious slicing injury to his right middle finger, described by medical professionals as "lacerating" and "degloving."
Lazy Acres representatives couldn't comment on the lawsuit, but in court, filings asking the case be dismissed – the company describes it differently.
In a motion for summary judgment, attorneys for the store claim video evidence shows Quinn spun the small cart in place while jumping up onto its handlebar and lifting his feet off the floor.
Lazy Acres' legal response states, "When doing so, Plaintiff Quinn lost his balance and both he and the cart fell to the floor. The impact pinned Plaintiff's right middle finger between the handlebar and the floor, causing a pressure injury to the tip of that finger. Despite Plaintiffs' claim that his finger was cut on a flag pole on the right side of the cart, the footage plainly shows that Plaintiff Quinn's hands were wrapped around the handlebar when he impacted with the floor, and made no contact with the flag pole when he tipped the cart over."
The Lazy Acres legal response states an expert found no sharp edges on the flag pole or anywhere else on the cart.
The Shopping Cart
"They gave him a dangerous cart - they gave him a dangerous toy to use," said Pringle family attorney Alison Worden.
Worden says the store failed to keep the child-size shopping carts in a reasonably safe manner, failed to inspect the small shopping carts, and failed to warn the customers of the potential dangers and guard against them.
The lawsuit claims, "Defendants provided Quinn Pringle, a six-year-old child, a child-size shopping cart to use that had sharp metal brackets and edges without warnings or safety precautions and with the knowledge doing so created an unreasonable risk of harm."
"We're not just talking about a scratch or a cut; we're talking about a child that's going to have permanent damage to his finger because of an unsafe toy that Lazy Acres provided to his mother," Worden said.
Worden shared that Pringle had asked the store to remove the carts from the property, but the carts weren't gone until a month later when she called as the family's attorney.
"I wanted them to remove the carts so that it didn't happen to anyone else," Pringle said.
In a court filing, attorneys for Lazy Acres stated prior to the incident that there had been no reports or complaints of any defects or other persons being injured by any shopping cart, including the children's carts, at the subject store at any time.
ABC 10News called The Peggs Company for comment. The person who answered the phone said she was told to say "no comment."
In court documents, The Peggs Company has also denied any wrongdoing. The Peggs Company filings state, "Here, Plaintiffs cannot establish any triable issues of fact regarding their failure to warn claim, as it is common knowledge that children's shopping carts are not jungle gyms and were not designed for a child to use in the manner Quinn was using it immediately prior to his accident. Second, Plaintiffs cannot establish that any alleged design defect was a substantial factor in causing Quinn's injuries. Lastly, no alternative safer design existed at the time of manufacture that would have prevented Quinn's injuries."
Worden said that anti-tipping devices were not included on the kid-sized carts.
In court documents she argues, "A foreseeable manner for a child interacting with a Kiddie Cart is to press his or her weight on the front handle to lift himself or herself up. When a child presses his or her weight on the front handle, such weight can cause a Kiddie Cart to suddenly tip down, thereby exposing the child using the Kiddie Cart to a dangerous situation and a high risk of an injury when the Kiddie Cart tips over onto the ground. Not only do children take this instinctual action of lifting their weight onto the handle of a Kiddie Cart, adults, including Bristol Farms employee(s), using adult-sized shopping carts, have done this same act of lifting themselves up on the handle of the shopping cart."
ABC 10News went to Lazy Acres locations in Mission Hills and Encinitas. This station did not see any child-size carts in Mission Hills but did see the carts at the Encinitas store, and at least one of them was being used.
Lazy Acres confirmed that the Mission Hills location no longer has child-size carts and that the Encinitas store currently uses them.
ABC 10News reporter Adam Racusin asked Heidi Pringle if her son was scared.
"He was terrified, yeah. So was I," Pringle said.
She said doctors were able to save Quinn's finger but not without another harrowing experience.
She said Quinn still has tingling in his finger, numbness, and pain.
It's also been hard to watch her once outgoing son experience changes to his personality as he reacts to and tries to work through the trauma.
The lawsuit asks for money for medical expenses, physical pain, mental suffering, and emotional distress.
A trial is scheduled for February 2022.