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Lawyer Scandalized by Attack on Catalog

May 2, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ A lawyer for Victoria’s Secret asked a judge on Wednesday to dismiss a lawsuit accusing the lingerie maker of violating racketeering laws by cheating some customers out of discounts in its catalogs.

The lawyer, Gregory P. Joseph, also asked the judge to impose sanctions against lawyer Howard Gotbetter for filing the lawsuit in January, saying he was trying to damage the catalog with his baseless complaint.

``I would not be asking for sanctions if this were just a frivolous complaint,″ Joseph said, explaining that the catalog sometimes offers larger discounts to repeat customers.

The lawyer then accused Gotbetter of suing to seek publicity, noting the lawsuit was brought in the name of Denise Katzman, who works with Gotbetter at his New York home. The suit was later amended to add Gotbetter’s stepdaughter as a complainant.

Judge Robert W. Sweet said the addition of Gotbetter’s stepdaughter was ``unusual to say the least. It’s something I’ll have to think about.″

The judge also was skeptical of some of Gotbetter’s claims, telling him that at least one was definitely wrong and another would require ignoring existing case law.

Gotbetter defended his lawsuit, insisting ``I never sought any publicity.″

Gotbetter has earned a reputation for taking on large companies after someone he knows suffers an injury or indignity. In one case, he sued on behalf of a client’s secretary after the woman was arrested and handcuffed for an hour by police who accused her of pushing over a magazine rack. That suit, against five city agencies and officials, is still pending.

Initially, Katzman’s lawsuit against Victoria’s Secret seemed aimed at the difference in prices between catalogs sent to men and those sent to woman. Since then, though, Gotbetter has argued the discrimination was of a much broader kind, not related to gender.

He now maintains his lawsuit was filed to pressure the company to offer fair discounts to all of its customers, rather than varying them according to the buying history of the purchaser.

Joseph said the catalog, a unit of Intimate Brands Inc., which is partially controlled by Limited Inc., was being victimized by a publicity-hound.

``We don’t think in fairness we should have been subjected to all of this,″ he told the judge. The case was featured prominently in newspapers, television new reports and on ``The Oprah Winfrey Show.″ Court TV filmed the proceedings Wednesday.

Gotbetter got some unwanted publicity of his own Wednesday when a woman who identified himself as his wife and the mother of his stepdaughter showed up at court and disrupted a television interview Katzman was giving.

``Excuse me,″ Lynda Hoffman called out as she motioned toward the camera. ``She doesn’t work for his firm. She is his girlfriend! ... She’s been his girlfriend for seven years and everybody knows it!″

``I don’t work for him, I work with him!″ Katzman snapped back.

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