MILWAUKEE – An 81-year-old Milwaukee man has sued the makers of Brut cologne after it ignited and burned parts of his hands, chest and neck.
Charles B. Lewitzke's case was filed in the U.S. District Court in Wisconsin's Eastern District this week. He is seeking unspecified damages from Helen of Troy Ltd., an El Paso, Texas company that owns and markets Brut, and Unilever Home & Personal Care USA, of New Jersey, a division of Conopco Inc., which had previously owned the product.
He also is suing Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, which is where he bought two Brut products, a lotion and deodorant spray.
A message left for Lewitzke's attorney was not immediately returned Wednesday. Christopher Meadows, a lawyer representing the defendants, said they were still investigating the claims and he would make no comment.
According to court filings, Lewitzke was burned while camping with family members on Memorial Day in 2004 in Wisconsin Dells, a popular resort area outside of Madison.
He washed and shaved in a bathhouse on the camp grounds and applied Brut lotion to his face, neck and chest with his hands. He also used the aerosol deodorant. He then went to a fire pit to cook breakfast.
His face, neck and chest ignited while he was starting the cooking fire, his lawsuit says.
Lewitzke's attorney, Michael Hanrahan, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that his client suffered burns on 30 percent of his body and underwent three skin grafts.
He claims in court documents that the Burt products and their packaging were the direct cause of Lewitzke's injuries and were defective because they were "unreasonably dangerous." The suit also says the products' labeling was unsafe because it should have warned about the danger of fires, and the manufacturers should have tried to minimize that risk.
Brut's manufacturers and companies selling the products should be held liable for Lewitzke's injuries, medical expenses, and the pain and disability he has suffered, the lawsuit argues.
"Our view is there is no warning that after you apply it, you remain flammable for some period of time," Hanrahan told the newspaper. "You aren't thinking, 'I'm still flammable."'