Rat-a-Porter: New York Woman Sues After Finding Rat Sewn Into Dress

article-zara-1114There is an interesting torts case out of New York where  Cailey Fiesel, 24, has sued the Zara clothing store after she went to work in a new dress only to discover a dead rat sewn into the dress.


Fiesel bought two dresses from the Zara store in Greenwich, Connecticut, on July 5, but left them hanging in her closet for two weeks.  When she wore one of the dresses to work, she noticed a “pungent odor,” but continued to work.  She later felt what she thought was  a string brushing against her leg: “To her utter shock and disbelief, as she ran her hand over the hem of the dress, she felt an unusual bulge and suddenly realized that it was not a string that was rubbing against her leg, but was instead a leg rubbing against her leg. The leg of a dead rodent, that is.”

She is alleging a “significant personal injuries and emotional distress,” including a rash and the later diagnosis of what turned out to be a rodent-borne disease, according to court documents.

What is particularly interesting is that Zara prides itself on bringing new products to market in a fraction of the time of other stores — launching about 12,000 new products every year. That could factor into a trial if the pace is viewed as contributing to the conditions that produced the rat-embedded dress.

If the rat was sewn into the dress, the negligence would seem obvious. It would seem unlikely that there were superseding intervening forces that would have put the rat into the dress after purchase.  There is also the question of product liability. Most dresses hardly possess the inherent risks for a product liability action, but this is not most dresses.  This is clearly a product that had harmful elements due to a manufacturing defect.  (I am assuming that this was not a design defect for a meat-based style of dress).

The interesting element may be damages.  Putting aside the rash and disease, the emotional trauma of walking around with a dead rat brushing your leg would stick with anyone in terms of negligent infliction of emotional distress.

What do you think the range of damages should be?


21 thoughts on “Rat-a-Porter: New York Woman Sues After Finding Rat Sewn Into Dress”

  1. What species was the rodent? I know some species are found worldwide, but if it could be traced to Europe or Asia, that would increase the likelihood that it was indeed sewn in.

    It seems unlikely such a thing would happen, because as far as I know, humans still do the sewing. That would be impossible to overlook (especially for the person who sewed that hem), since multiple people handle a garment before it is ready for shipping, packing, etc.

    And, clothes get to Zara’s in as little as 1-2 weeks for some items, and 4-5 weeks (from the designer to the consumer) for others, versus 6 months for other retailers, according to Wikipedia. That’s plenty of time for the critter to smell.

    I am not sure what happened, but I would be very surprised if the critter got sewn in in Europe.

    1. Prairie Rose – the company is contending the mouse was sewn in after she bought the dress. However, an examination of the mouse would help.

      1. Yes, an autopsy of the critter is warranted.

        Could she have an angry roommate?

        But it is suspicious that she only noticed the smell at work. And, it would be presumably heavy enough to change the drape of the dress.

  2. The assumption, by JT, where he states that it is unlikely that superseding forces may have intervened to place the rat/mouse in the dress, AFTER purchase, is based upon what? Any superior knowledge related to the habits and behaviors of rodents? What are these creatures, in fact, capable of damaging and/or infiltrating? Do they commonly chew through fabric, in order to find a cozy home, only to find themselves trapped and incapable of freeing themselves? I’m not willing to jump to the conclusion that the problem didn’t transpire in the two weeks her clothing remained in a dark closet, especially given the widespread rodent problem in NYC. Think about this–let’s assume that the rodent was, in fact, sewn into the garment, as the petitioner claims, at the time of manufacture. That could only mean that the petitioner ignored, or was oblivious to, the putrid stench or odor emanating from this decaying rat/mouse in her closet, for two full weeks. Yeah. Quite telling. What should we glean from that? Perhaps her entire apartment or home had a perpetual stench, and this smell was nothing unusual for her? Perhaps she lived in filth? Speaks to her housekeeping and general concern for tidiness and cleanliness. Before we jump to blame this company, thereby relieving this woman of any and all responsibility for her predicament, a little common sense is in order.

    1. Most business storage areas and personal closets are unheated spaces. The woman’s home could also have been at a low temperature. If the rodent was indeed in the dress prior to purchase, it could have remained relatively intact and virtually non-odorous for an extended time. Wearing the dress induced warming from body heat, and initiated a putrid aroma.

      I still think it is highly suspicious that the wearer did not notice the rodent during try-on, purchase, or immediately upon wearing – depending on the size of the alleged rodent, of course.

  3. The rat was in her closet. It climbed into the dress and found its way under some threading and lining. No way Jose that the rat was in there when she bought it.

  4. For those of you who may not know, New York City happens to be infested with rodents–rats, the size of taxis, with an attitude to match, run across your path on Fifth Avenue. A sight to be seen. They are everywhere. From what I can see in the photo, it appears to be part of a small mouse emerging from the hem. Given the fact that many buildings in New York have a serious and uncontrolled rodent problem, it’s quite possible that the mouse found its way into her garment WHILE it was hanging in HER CLOSET for TWO weeks. Not inconceivable.

    True story–around twenty or so years ago, I was staying at a decent and popular hotel in New York City. Before I went to sleep one night, I placed my sneakers near the side of my bed, intending to wake early in the morning and use the hotel’s gym. In the morning, to my surprise, while I was sitting on the edge of the bed, getting dressed, I reached for my sneakers. Well, I should say, I reached for what was LEFT of my brand new Nike sneakers. Over the course of eight hours, SOMETHING managed to chew through the laces of my sneakers, all the way up to the grommets. I immediately showed the sneakers–which I was now holding by a towel–to the hotel manager, who was not surprised or surprised by the occurrence. He proceeded to inform me that mice love to chew, and will chew at anything–he assured me that his hotel was no different than The Plaza. He assured me that there were rodents there, as well. My response to his nonsense–yeah, but at least at The Plaza, the rats and mice wear tuxedos!

    1. This reminds me of a joke that Norm Crosby tells in the documentary “When Jews Were Funny.” Norm Crosby has been performing for more than 50 years. I saw him several years ago in a benefit show and he is still hilarious. His joke, as he tells it in the movie, goes something like this:

      A synagogue is infested with rats. The rabbi tried everything. Although he kept the place spotless and he hired an exterminator, the rats kept returning. The rabbi mentioned his problem to another rabbi, who told him that he had a solution to his problem. “Simply get a lot of little yamulkas and put them on the heads of the rats. Then give them all a bar mitzvah and you’ll never see them in the synagogue again.”

  5. Yeah, sure,everybody is concerned about the woman getting shocked by a dead rat that was sewn into her dress. But nobody shows the least concern for the rat, who is the real victim in this case. The rat was simply minding its own business and was trying out some evening gowns to wear for her next social event . (See photo link below.)

    Then, to the rat’s utter surprise, she was suddenly snatched from the clothes changing room and maliciously sewn into a woman’s dress without her consent.

    How would you feel if you were snatched up and sewn into a fabric coffin, where you could breathe, but you could barely move for days on end? Can you imagine the pain, the anxiety, and the hunger–with no relief in sight? And to add to the tragedy, this rat will never see her children again.

    In fact, as I think about this more, I’m going to visit my barrister later this week to discuss the possibility of a lawsuit against Zara for bystander trauma.


  6. I haven’t bought many dresses (none at all, actually), but I truly do not understand how someone can buy any garment that isn’t a heavy coat and not notice a lump like that. Perhaps the dress buyers who comment can explain it, but between the manufacturer’s production employee, the person packing the dress for shipment, the store clerk unpacking and hanging the garment, the customer examining and selecting the garment and finally the store clerk doing a security check and bagging or hanging the garment, NOBODY noticed it? It strikes me as really implausible.

  7. In this case, I absolutely see the emotional damages. I can think of several people who would have freaked out so badly they would have disrobed at work immediately. Which would lead to years of counseling and red faced workplace conduct remedial classes.

    Rodents can cary very serious diseases, including bubonic plague, hanta virus, and tapeworm. I do not believe the rash would have been from flea bites. If the rat had died long ago, the fleas would have fled by then. If not, then she could have gotten dermatitis from flea bites…from a dead rat, which frankly would freak anyone else.

    Rats are quite large. Their body is longer than your palm. I do not fault her in the slightest, but wonder how she didn’t notice the weight. It must have been a pup or perhaps a mouse. Once you’ve smelled something dead, you don’t forget it. So she must not have ever smelled a dead animal before and did not realize the implications. The rodent must have seriously desiccated for the smell to have been mild enough that she could bear being in a closed vehicle. My friend’s dog caught a ground squirrel and hid it in the back of the closet of a spare room in her house. In summer. Boy, that was a fun game of hide and seek. By the time we located it, not even airing the room out with all the doors and windows open for 3 days helped.

    Why is this going to court? How much is she asking for? If I were Zara I would give her money and flowers and a sympathy card.

    As for how much I think she should get…it depends on the disease. Hanta virus can be deadly. Leptospirosis can cause organ damage, but I don’t know how long dried urine is infectious. LCMV and rat bite fever are other diseases that can cause serious damage. If she was seriously harmed, or got a disease that could have harmed her, then she deserves some serious money to make things right. If it was dermatitis from flea bites (just the red, itchy rash), but no actual communicable disease, then significantly less. In addition to damages for physical suffering, I think she does deserve money for the emotional suffering, as well as embarrassment at work. Unless she brought gym clothes or a change of clothes, she would have had to wear that stinking dead rate dress all the way home or at least cut the charnal part off. And if she discovered it at work, that’s humiliating. They need to make a good faith effort, but I don’t believe it would be millions of dollars.

    Then again, I have horses. Someone was picking out a horse’s hoof at the barn one day and found a dead mouse crushed in there, and had to dig it out with a hoof pick. Horse feed attracts rodents, so combating them is part of equestrian life. She does have my sympathy, though.

    For the lawyers out there, how do you calculate an amount for emotional damages?

  8. I have a difficult time accepting a rat in a dress being shockingly emotionally damaging but receiving a rodent-borne disease can be and in some cases rodent diseases can be fatal to humans such as Hantavirus.

    Maybe these guys were involved:

    1. Why do you seem to think that because it would not be a “shockingly emotionally damaging” experience to you that it therefore is very unlikely to be a “shockingly emotionally damaging” experience to someone else? Others are not Darren Smith clones.

Comments are closed.