Cosmetics disfigurement case moved to federal court

By Kelly Holleran | Dec 11, 2009

CHARLESTON – A Kanawha County woman alleges she lost her job and nearly her children after she applied makeup that caused chemical burns on her face.

Amee Nicole Topping originally filed a lawsuit Sept. 24 in Kanawha Circuit Court against Macys Department Stores and Estee Lauder Services doing business as MAC Cosmetics.

In her complaint, Topping claims employees at the Macys store in the Barboursville Mall gave her a MAC makeup sample on Oct. 1, 2007.

On Oct. 31, 2007, Topping had to rush to the Charleston Area Medical Center's emergency room for chemical burns on her face caused by the makeup, according to Topping's complaint.

"Amee Nicole Topping has suffered permanent chemical burns to her face, endured great pain and suffering of mind and body, had to miss work and was subsequently fired, lost wages, and her children's school called and reported her to the Department of Health and Human Resources because of the change in her appearance," the suit states.

Because of the incident, Topping lost the companionship of her children, lost her job, incurred medical costs and became permanently disfigured, the complaint says.

She blames Macys and Estee Lauder, saying their makeup was defective and lacked appropriate warnings.

But the defendants say their makeup could not be responsible for Topping's appearance.

"The claims against Defendants are barred in whole or in part because if Plaintiff was exposed to any product designed, manufactured, distributed or supplied by Defendants, such exposure was not on a regular basis over an extended period of time, and, therefore, such exposure was not a proximate cause or a substantial factor in causing her alleged injuries and damages, if any," the defendants' answer states. "If Plaintiff sustained any of the injuries alleged in the Complaint, which is denied, said injuries were the result of an idiosyncratic reaction for which Defendants cannot be held liable."

Topping is seeking an unspecified judgment, plus pre-judgment interest, costs and other relief the court deems just.

Macys and Estee Lauder are asking the court to dismiss Topping's complaint and to grant them other relief the court deems just.

Macys and Estee Lauder removed the case to U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, saying a diversity of citizenship exists and claiming Topping seeks more than $75,000 for her damages.

David L. White of The Masters Law Firm in Charleston will be representing Topping.

Charles M. Love III and Rhonda L. Harvey of Bowles, Rice, McDavid, Graff and Love in Charleston will be representing Macys and Estee Lauder.

U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin has been assigned to the case.

U.S. District Court case number: 2:09-cv-1173

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