Victoria’s Secret latest Becnel target

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 12, 2008


Editor and Publisher

LAPLACE — St. John attorney Danny Becnel has handled many a lawsuit, covering a wide gamut of products or services.

But even he might be a little surprised to see his latest client, and the company being sued by the nationally-renowned class action attorney.

Becnel filed his latest litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, charging Victoria’s Secret Stores with negligence from their highly-popular pushup bra.

Named in the suit is Victoria’s Secret Stores, LLC, Victoria’s Secret Direct Brand Management, LLC, Victoria’s Secret Stores Brand Management, Inc., and Limited Brands, Inc.

The suit was filed on behalf of Jerilyn G. Amaya, who is claiming medical problems resulting from the pushup bra Victoria’s Secret unveiled over a year ago.

The bra reportedly has the chemical formaldehyde in its fabric, Becnel said, and is causing some women to develop a rash and other physical problems.

“As far as we know, they didn’t consider what formaldehyde would do to a woman who has that on her skin all day long,” Becnel said. “You might think a company would really look into using a chemical in a product that would be on a woman’s skin for a long time, but it doesn’t appear they looked into it very well.”

Becnel said he is already representing “a couple hundred” clients who have contacted his firm and he thinks the ultimate class action suit could involve thousands.

The lawsuit claims that Victoria’s Secret knowingly sold the bras that can cause allergic reactions, contact dermatitis, blistering, itching, hives, rashes, scarring, systemic reactions and other health concerns.

Becnel further alleges in the suit that Victoria’s Secret was aware of the problem, but failed to warn consumers of the dangers about their undergarments and intimate apparel, which is sold at over 1,000 stores in the United States.

He is suing for the reimbursement for medical expenses, potentially higher insurance premiums, money spent on such garments, attorneys fees and “whatever further relief the Court deems just and proper under the circumstances.”

Victoria’s Secret issued a response through a spokesperson that acknowledged direct complaints to the company. However, the bras do remain on store shelves.

The company said it is investigating complaints and released a statement that said, “We are sorry that a small number of people have had an issue and we want to help them determine the cause. Customer safety and satisfaction are always our primary concerns and we take seriously any issues our customers may have with our products.”

One 37-year-old woman who described herself as a longtime Victoria’s Secret shopper said she had numerous problems from using the bra.

“I couldn’t sleep, waking up itching. I was just utterly sick,” she said.

That Ohio resident claimed an interest in helping other woman after her lawyer had filed a suit on her behalf.

“I was floored. I thought, ‘I have to come out with this. The can of worms has to be opened because it’s not just me, it’s other people as well,’” she said.

Becnel said that the bra has wire in it, but the formaldehyde in the fabric is where the problem comes from. The formaldehyde apparently helps the fabric remain stiff, thereby aiding the pushup effect for women.

“Formaldehyde breaks down the skin, and that is the actual protection for our entire body,” Becnel said, having dealt with several other lawsuits where formaldehyde was a problem. “The skin is like a protective glove and when it is broken down—as occurs in these situations—it allows any number of harmful things to be absorbed into a woman’s body.”

Becnel said that the lawsuit will obviously be a huge case due to the nature of what is involved here.

“Women think their breasts are pretty important,” the St. John attorney said. “And when they have rashes and scarring from this bra, they don’t want their husbands to see how they look. This is pretty important.”

Becnel has asked the court for class action status in the case, which was only filed several weeks ago.