Bad bra. Now what?
September 14, 2011 12:04 PM   Subscribe

In late July my wife bought a bra from a national retail chain. She wore it one day and was left with a painful large welt/wound on both sides that made it uncomfortable to wear any bra for three weeks. When she explained what happened to the store, they put her in touch with their corporate offices. The welt/wound has mostly healed, although some red areas are still visible and there is some mild throbbing and more-than-occasional itching. She saw a dermatologist who said that there may be some permanent discoloration. The corporate rep indicated that they'd pay for the doctor's visit, although there really wasn't any out-of-pocket cost because the visit was covered by my insurance. Beyond this, can she expect some kind of compensation for the pain, inconvenience and continued problems? What's the best way to go about asking the company? Do we need a lawyer? How do we find one?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
What exactly was wrong with the bra? Unless there was something grossly wrong with the bra (exposed metal, spontaneous combustion) or it contained an allergen that legally should have been disclosed (not sure if there is any legal precedent here) you do not have much of a case - it's possible that wearing any bra that wasn't properly fitted could have harmed you wife. There is some legal precedent for that, but you risk being the person who forced manufacturers to put a wear at your own risk warning on bras. I would investigate online to see if any other women had had similar problems with this make of bra. Lawyers would be much more interested in putting together a class action lawsuit, plus you would be more sure the cause was actually the bra.
posted by fermezporte at 12:16 PM on September 14, 2011 [4 favorites]

Well, I'm not a lawyer, but I guess if I were you I'd ask myself what I wanted to get out of this. If it's a big chain and you lawyer up, they will fight you, and they have more money and energy than you do. You'd probably have to prove that it was the bra itself and nothing else. It would be an expensive fight. And if you haven't been doing extensive documentation of everything, then it's probably a lost cause anyway.

Did they indicate whether or not this was something they had other complaints about?

If 'there may be some permanent discoloration' is the worst non-temporary outcome of all of this, I'd probably drop it. Three weeks of discomfort and some itching is probably not enough to file a serious lawsuit against a corporation and make it worth your while.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:18 PM on September 14, 2011

Call the corporate office back and explain what you want. They'll either give it to you or they won't. It wouldn't be a bad idea to get the medical records from the visit and any diagnostic charts. Maybe even a letter from the dermatologist. This is a pretty weird little event you've got going here, and corporate isn't likely to be willing to shell out more than a nominal amount without some kind of evidence of her damages.

Seriously, we're talking about one or two visits to the doctor which didn't involve any procedures, and an injury that is likely to completely heal inside of a few months. A violent car accident this ain't. Any permanent effects are likely to be cosmetic, and while that's worth something, it's not worth as much as it would be if there were any continuing pain or ongoing medical treatment.

There's also liability issues here. It could be that the bra was defective. It could also be that most people don't know how to properly fit bras, so it's possible that, sorry to say it, your wife may have some share of the fault here. You may not want to hear it, but I guarantee you it's something the company is going to consider as they evaluate your claim. They're in the business to make money, and they don't do that by giving people money every time they're asked to do so.

If they won't give you what you want for the asking, you may be in trouble, because the only way of getting it is going to be to sue, and this isn't likely to involve much in the way of damages. This means a lot of plaintiff attorneys aren't going to be very interested. I'd recommend doing some internet searches for the particular bra "make and model," as it were, seeing if anyone else has experienced the same thing.
posted by valkyryn at 12:18 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Practically: she's seeing a doctor, who is already taking care of the wound left by the bra. The company has already offered to pay for the medical treatment. I'm not sure what other "pain, inconvenience, and continued problems" there might be that the dermatologist wouldn't be able to address, so I'm not sure what you'd expect to get further (even speaking as a woman, I'm not sure I'd buy "emotional damages" in this instance unless she had, like, an open weeping sore that was NEVER GOING TO HEAL or something).

Seconding the "what the HELL was wrong with that bra" question, so I can avoid that brand myself.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:31 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

This situation sounds very similar to the Wal-Mart issue where flip-flops were giving people chemical burns.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:51 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I remember reading about this a few years ago happening to quite a Victoria's Secret patrons. It wasn't this bra by any chance, was it? I don't know what you should do, but if it IS that bra, I'd think you could certainly make the case that they were aware of a problem.
posted by something something at 12:52 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

There was also a lawsuit this summer by a woman who claimed the underwire on her (bikini) bra gave her third-degree burns (link). Your wife wasn't in the sun, during that first day, was she?
posted by argonauta at 12:55 PM on September 14, 2011

Something similar happened to me -- in that I had a relatively minor injury from an incident at a big business. I slipped on a supermarket spill and "only" had an internal break of a bone in my knee. It's something that hurt, that bothered me for months, that sent me to the hospital & doctor, then physical therapy, affected my ability to live my life etc. Yet it wasn't a life changing injury. So it sounds somewhat similar to your wife's experience.

I did get a lawyer. I started with referrals from friends. Most lawyers weren't interested in the case because it was too small, but I eventually found a guy who specialized in these types of smaller cases.

The big supermarket corporation did fight back, but not tooth and nail. We eventually ended up in arbitration, where I was awarded several thousand dollars. My insurance company took the largest chunk, and the lawyer and I each got a couple of thousand dollars. The entire process from date of injury to the day I got the check was about two years, but almost all of that was passive on my part, as the case wound through the system.

If that sounds like a process you'd like to pursue, then you might as well start talking to lawyers just to see what they say. The money I got didn't change my life, but I did appreciate receiving something because I actually did experience "pain and suffering" despite the relatively minor injury I received.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:58 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Was it Victoria's Secret? If so, you might be interested in this.
posted by Wordwoman at 2:21 PM on September 14, 2011

You need a lawyer.
posted by ErikaB at 3:09 PM on September 14, 2011

you do not have much of a case

GAAAH only a lawyer, who specializes in this field, in your jurisdiction, with all of the facts, can tell you whether you have a case.

Lawyers would be much more interested in putting together a class action lawsuit

What? No. I mean, maybe. But not necessarily.

If you want legal advice, talk to a lawyer. Not strangers on the internet. Personal injury or products liability are the keywords you're looking for. Bonus: most plaintiff lawyers practicing in this field offer free consultations.

posted by AV at 4:32 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding that we really need more information here - was there something wrong with the bra, or did it just not fit right? This seems a little like demanding compensation for blisters caused by ill-fitting shoes.
posted by mskyle at 6:19 PM on September 14, 2011

Was it Intimacy? I had a similar experience - they fitted me with a too small bra that left bruises that lasted for weeks and maybe the third time I wore it, I figured out that the bruises were because a piece of plastic had ripped through. And of course they won't take it back. Intimacy sucks.

Anyway, I doubt that you have any legal recourse. They will probably tell you that your wife should have taken the bra off the moment she felt any discomfort.
posted by echo0720 at 6:22 PM on September 14, 2011

Okay, now I'm dying to know what store it was from as well! My mom recently bought me a bra at Kohl's and the first day I wore it I ended up with a big welt that scabbed over and is still visible two weeks later. I just assumed it was a bad fit/weird skin reaction, but maybe it's a more common occurrence than I realize.
posted by emd3737 at 5:01 AM on September 15, 2011

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