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Eye-catching thong gives rise to lawsuit

A Los Angeles traffic cop is suing Victoria’s Secret for an eye injury she said she suffered because of what she alleges to be a defective thong. As she was putting on the garment, a piece of metal “popped into my eye,” she said. “I was in excruciating pain.”
/ Source: TODAY contributor

Like many moms, Macrida Patterson’s mother may have warned her when she was growing up about all the things that had to be handled carefully because “it could put your eye out.”

Maybe she should have added thongs to that list.

Patterson is the 52-year-old Los Angeles traffic cop who’s made news by suing Victoria’s Secret for an eye injury she said she suffered because of what she alleges to be a defective thong. The offending garment is a blue bit of fabric with a rhinestone heart forming part of the waistband, connected to the fabric by metal links.

“I was putting on my underwear from Victoria’s Secret, and the metal popped into my eye,” Patterson told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Thursday from Los Angeles. “It happened really quickly. I was in excruciating pain. I screamed. That’s what happened.”

The incident happened in May 2007 when Patterson was changing in the locker room at work after her shift. She says she drove home despite considerable pain in her eye. The next morning, she says, the eye was so painful she had to go to the hospital.

“Macrida suffered three actual cuts to her cornea,” said her attorney, Jason Buccat, who joined Patterson for the interview. “It left some severe damage, to the point where in order for it to heal, she had to take some topical steroid.”

Buccat displayed a rare ability: to make talking about a thong sound as exciting as a scholarly discussion of pea gravel. He kept referring to “the stream of commerce” and called the offending scrap of undergarment a product that was defective in manufacture and design, saying that what he had wasn’t a thong that went sprong, but a product liability case.

Vieira pointed out that many Americans would consider the case to be frivolous, especially as Patterson admits to wearing the thong at least twice before and having laundered it. “There are people, I guarantee, who are watching this right now and they’re rolling their eyes, and they’re screaming at the TV and they’re saying, ‘This is ridiculous. This is what’s wrong with this country, that these crazy lawsuits come into play,’ ” she told Buccat.

The attorney didn’t flinch. “Victoria’s Secret does have its angels, but as we say, the devil is in the details,” he replied. “And the details here will definitely show there is a defective product, both in its design and its manufacture.”

Referring to a photo of the thong, he continued, “You can see the obvious defects in that piece with respect to its defective design. First, Victoria’s Secret chose to put a decorative piece with sharp points and metal gear on its underwear itself. Second, when they placed it on that piece, it was off to the side toward the outer part of the leg, and that point is a natural stress point for any individual that’s putting on any kind of underwear.”

Protecting the public
Vieira pressed the attorney about how much money he’s suing for, but he wouldn’t name a figure. “This case is definitely about protecting the consumer from defective products,” he repeated. “In terms of money, that’s not what we really want here. We want to make Macrida fully redressed for her grievous injury. She’s missed work. She’s gone through a lot of suffering as well. We want to make Macrida Patterson whole again.”

He said how much money — if any — it will take to accomplish that end would be determined at trial, adding that it would be more than $25,000.

Patterson claims that she called Victoria’s Secret when she got home the day of the injury to complain. The company asked her to send it the thong, but Buccat advised her not to.

“We were actually happy for them to view the thong, but what they wanted to do and we weren’t comfortable with, we were not going to relinquish that item to them altogether,” he told Vieira. “They wanted us to ship it to them so that they could do their own analysis … this a piece of evidence. That is not something we’re going to do.”

TODAY asked representatives of Victoria’s Secret for comment, but a company spokesman replied in an e-mail, “It would be really inappropriate for us to comment at this point since we have not even been served with that lawsuit yet.”