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'Good Morning America' Highlights Questionable Victoria's Secret Lawsuit

      Victoria’s Secret, the well-known lingerie retailer, is being sued by a woman who claims the company’s bra had formaldehyde in it and made her “utterly sick.”


     ABC’s “Good Morning America” ran a segment Nov. 11 focusing on that 37-year-old Ohio woman, Roberta Ritter.


    “Victoria’s Secret – certainly one of the world's most recognizable brands,” anchor Diane Sawyer said. “And this morning, though, there are questions about what some of the bras might have in them. And did they cause a reaction?”


     ABC’s Andrea Canning warned viewers “some women say they’ve experienced very uncomfortable symptoms from the bras like rashes and hives, even permanent scarring … but the bras are still on the shelves.”


     Canning portrayed Ritter positively, calling her a “loyal” patron of the company. “Her attorneys say dozens of other women have also contacted them with similar claims involving a number of collections in the brand – many wanting to be part of a potential class-action lawsuit.”


     But Canning didn’t mention Ritter’s history of filing lawsuits against large corporations. According to records from the Cuyahoga County Court database, Ritter filed a suit against Palmieri Hair Salons in 1995 for $50,000 and one against DaimlerChrysler (NYSE:DAI) in 2003 for $25,000. Although there were no details about the cases, court records, indicate that lawsuits were dismissed.


     “Ritter’s bra hasn’t been tested yet,” Canning said. “But she says her doctor diagnosed her with an allergic reaction that could have been caused by formaldehyde. Whatever it was, she doesn't want this to happen to anyone else.”


     According to letter sent to ABC News on behalf of the Formaldehyde Council, a trade association for the industry, the bras in question do not contain formaldehyde.


     “Apparel made from fully synthetic fibers (such as the bras in your story) do not contain formaldehyde, a fact that is easily confirmed,” Jim McCarthy, a Formaldehyde Council representative wrote.


     McCarthy told the Business & Media Institute these complaints were rare and litigation fruitless.


     “I’d be interested to know the motives of the trial, but to my knowledge there’s been no successful litigation or complaints about that,” McCarthy said. “Usually it is only seen from the environmental activist community, but this has no substantive basis in medical fact.”


      He explained that pure formaldehyde isn’t used in garments, but a derivative of it is and it is usually only used in cotton garments to make the material stiffer or have a different texture. But he said it is never used in purely synthetic products like polyester – which is what the undergarments in question from Victoria’s Secret are made from.


     ABC News did not immediately return calls or e-mails from the Business & Media Institute as of Nov. 15.