The estate of a Connecticut woman who died after a robe she purchased from Blair LLC caught fire has filed a multi-million-dollar federal lawsuit against the company, and at least one other suit has been filed in California.
The suit filed by the estate of Atwilda Brown of East Windsor, Conn., seeks $30 million in damages from Blair Corp., Blair LLC and Catalog Holdings Inc., claiming negligence on the part of the company.
Requests for comment from Blair were referred to Jane Simmons of Sard Verbinnen & Co. in New York, who said it is Blair LLC's policy not to comment on pending litigation. Blair has retained the services of Sard Verbinnen & Co., a communications firm with offices in New York City, Chicago and San Francisco, to help coordinate strategy on how to retrieve robes that haven't been returned.
Blair issued a voluntary recall of the full-length robes in April in conjunction with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) after receiving three reports of the robes catching fire and injuring three people. Since that time, as many as nine deaths have been reported to be linked to the robes. In June the company launched a program aimed at contacting those who had purchased the robes in an attempt to have the robes returned.
Earlier this month, the company announced additional efforts to retrieve the robes and expanded its recall to cover all women's chenille wearing apparel manufactured by A-One Textile & Towel in Karachi, Pakistan. That company manufactured the robes for Blair. Blair has since severed its relationship with A-One Textile & Tile.
The items were sold through Blair catalogs, its web site and stores from July 2000 through April 2007. A total of 138,000 robes are involved.
According to the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Harford, Conn., Mrs. Brown was preparing a cup of tea on Feb. 12, 2005 in her home while wearing one of the Blair robes. The robe allegedly ignited and Mrs. Brown received extensive second and third degree burns. She died on Feb. 27 that same year.
The suit was filed by firm of Raymond and Bennett LLC of Glastonbury, Conn.
A spokesman for that firm indicated that other suits had been filed against Blair in four other states. The only other suit The Times Observer could independently confirm is one filed last week in San Diego, Calif. on behalf of the heirs of Evelyn and Murray Rogoff. Emily Rogoff, according to that suit, was wearing one of the Blair robes and, like the woman in Connecticut, was preparing tea when the robe ignited. The suit claims her husband was burned also when he attempted to help his wife. The Rogoffs, both in their 80s, died some weeks later.
According to the Connecticut suit, Mrs. Brown required in-patient treatment and around-the-clock care at the Burn Center at Bridgeport (Conn.) Hospital from Feb. 12 to the time of her death on Feb. 27.
The suit claims that the robe was made of material that was not treated with flame retardant chemicals which were available at the time of its manufacture in Pakistan and was defective in design and "unreasonably dangerous" in that it failed to have adequate warnings and instructions relating to its ability to catch on fire.
The suit also contends that Blair misrepresented to Mrs. Brown and the general public that the robe was safe for use and failed to disclose its dangerous nature.
The plaintiffs have asked for a jury trial.