Family sues over bathrobe fire death

HARTFORD, Conn. - October 28, 2009 Atwilda Brown, 80, was making her nightly cup of tea in her East Windsor home on Feb. 12, 2005, when the robe she purchased three weeks earlier from Blair LLC caught on fire, according to the lawsuit and a police report of the incident.

Brown died in a hospital burn unit two weeks later, becoming one of nine people whose deaths have been linked to the robes by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission.

Attorneys for her estate filed the lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court in Hartford against Blair LLC of Warren, Pa. The lawsuit seeks $30 million.

Blair recalled the products in April after it learned of three robes catching on fire. Six more reports of fire-related deaths linked to the robes have been made since then, prompting Blair to expand its recall this month to include chenille jackets and tops made by the same Pakistani manufacturer.

Some of the products failed to meet federal flammability standards and present a risk of serious burns to consumers if the garments are exposed to an open flame, according to federal authorities.

Like Brown, the victims were mostly in their 70s and 80s and died from burns that occurred when flames raced up the robe, according to the federal consumer agency.

Brown's daughter, Sharon Davis, said in a written statement this week that she hopes the lawsuit will help spread the word to women who still have the robes and aren't aware of the dangers.

"My mother suffered a horrible death and experienced excruciating pain. I would like to know why it took four long years to finally make an official recall take place and see Blair punished for violating federal product safety laws," she said.

A message was left Wednesday with Blair LLC's attorneys seeking comment about the lawsuit.

The recalled products were sold in Blair catalogs, online and at Blair stores in Warren, Pa.; Grove City, Pa.; and Wilmington, Del., from July 2000 through April 2007.

For more information on the affected products and item numbers, consumers can call Blair at 877-392-7095 or visit or

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