Lawsuits



Bed Bug Bites Bed Bug Bites

The Causes

This adds to the woes of countless hotel, motel, inn, and lodging owners, because eliminating bed bugs from even one room comes at a high cost. Exterminators have a difficult job killing bed bugs; chemical baits aren’t effective since bed bugs feed only on blood, and DDT is banned. Plus, it takes several visits to find and destroy all of the bugs and their eggs. To eradicate a full-blown infestation throughout a building could cost $50,000 to $60,000. Methods include pyrethroid chemicals as well as applications of cold, heat, steam and vacuuming. However, bedbugs have been responsible for several new businesses, such as one in San Francisco which freezes all contents from an apartment for 48 hours to kill bed bugs, at $2,000 per unit. A New York company, K-9 Bedbug Detection Services, relies on trained beagles to sniff out bed bugs in upscale condos, hotels, and nursing homes at an average price of $1200. However, since bed bugs can live 12 months without a meal, making a room off limits for weeks after treatment may not help, either. The bedbugs may still lurk in cracks no wider than an envelope, or a new batch may arrive in someone else’s luggage.

The Responses

To fend off such horrors, some hotels request guests to take showers before entering a room; they’re given track suits and slippers to wear while their clothes are cleaned, and one Las Vegas hotel replaces guests’ luggage with new suitcases. Such actions sound extreme, but even one customer who claims to be the victim of bed bugs can cost the facility untold money in lawsuits and loss of business. (It is estimated that bed bug reports cost the Australian tourism industry $75 million every year.)

To avoid lawsuits and negative publicity, most property owners settle bed bug claims out of court-at much less than the reported one of $150,000 from Helmsley Enterprises in 2004. On the advice of lawyers and insurers, many hoteliers are initiating bed bug lawsuit plans and raising their rates to do so. A quick summary of recent cases would convince any property owner of the rationale behind doing so:

2003- $382,000 punitive and compensatory damages awarded to two Chicago plaintiffs
2004- 45% rent abatement for six-months to a New York apartment tenant
2007- A woman is claiming infestation by hundreds of bed bugs in a cheap motel during her recuperation from breast cancer. Rose M. Pagley-Brown is suing the Stone Motel in Arkansas, alleging “pain and mental anguish, embarrassment and humiliation, medical bills and expenses” from countless bug bites and visible bugs in her bed. The owner denies the allegations, claiming his business had passed two recent pest inspections.
2007-Plaintiffs claimed that bed bug pesticide spraying at Wichita State University made them ill.
2008-Three apartment tenants in Chicago are suing for bedbug injuries.
2008-An opera singer initiated a lawsuit against the Hilton Corporation for $6 million. The alleged injuries involve over 150 bed bug bites.

In comparison, in 2005, a couple acquired bed bug bites and scabies from a Washington-State hotel, but ended up receiving only $4,000 through small claims court to cover financial losses. The individuals felt that lawyers didn’t see enough money in the case to take it and the issue wasn’t considered newsworthy by the media.

Other Litigation Concerns

Insurance often fails to cover total litigation costs; for example, punitive damages are not insurable. Plus, if managers have been negligent in dealing with bed bug infestations, numerous insurers won’t pay any claims.

Bed bug lawsuits have recently been filed against cruise lines, rental furniture companies, laundromats, and dry cleaners. Furthermore, now landlords are suing pest control companies, just as more bedbug victims are suing public municipalities. It is expected that soon there will be addendums to lease agreements which hold tenants responsible for bedbug infestations.

When it comes to hotels, bed bug claims are among the top frauds perpetrated against hotels, according to Thomas Jones, an associate professor at the University of Nevada. In response, one New York hotel displays a “bedbug alert free” certification in their lobby-but it is in the minority when it comes to bringing up the issue of bed bugs. Most lodgings don’t want guests thinking about bedbugs. (If and when they do utilize bug-sniffing dogs, guests are told the canines are checking for mold.)

The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) says bed bugs themselves are reproducing in surprising amounts, by more than 500 percent over the past few years. Yet, these numbers have minimal impact on most hotels, with state-of-the-art sanitation and strict standards of laundering, drying, vacuuming and bedbug-proof mattress covers. The Best Western is typical in its use of a regularly administered pest control program and a trained and knowledgeable housekeeping staff. Such practices should keep bed bugs and lawsuits to a minimum.

Recent Bed Bugs Lawsuits

Below are summaries of some recent lawsuits over the last two years:

Case #1 - Staten Island, New York, March 2009

In early 2009 a group of eleven tenants sued the owner of the Midland Motor Inn located at 630 Midland Avenue, Staten Island, New York. Among the eleven motel residents was a couple by the name of Edward Reed and Jaunise Rayford, who reported the situation to local new agencies, along with a vial of about a dozen bed bugs that were alleged to have been gathered from the furniture within their motel room.

The tenants sought an undisclosed amount of damages, contending that they were severely affected by the bed bugs, even suffering from resultant illnesses such as scabies, a contagious skin infection. In fact their lawyer, Alan D. Levine, even claimed that these skin infections were confirmed by their medical doctor. The tenants complained of trouble sleeping on a nightly basis, as well as multiple visits to doctors and hospitals.

The owner of the building, Kanti Patel, claimed every effort was carried out to make sure the building was bed bug free, even noting that the rooms were sprayed on a daily basis. He believes the bed bugs were brought in by the tenants themselves, as many of them were placed in the motel by project Hospitality, an organization that finds housing for the needy. After the manager of Project Hospitality was notified of the situation all of the tenants were relocated in city shelters the same day.

Although many believe the tenants were responsible for this bed bug infestation, the results of this lawsuit have not been publicly announced.

Case #2 - Nashville, Tennessee, July 2009

In mid July of 2009, The Tennessean (a local paper) reported that a woman by the name of Evangela Cowan was suing the local Rent-a-Center for $575,000, claiming that the furniture she rented form them was infested with bed bugs. The Rent-a-Center spokesman claimed the company carries out all measures to ensure that the furniture they provide is bed bug free, even going so far as to say that bed bugs are a rarity. He also stated that the company does everything they can to help customers when bed bug infestation is reported. However, Evangela Cowan claims she did report the infestation to the Rent-a-Center employees, and they just looked at [her] as if they were not concerned.

Although the results of this lawsuit were not published, it should be noted that bed bugs are not a rarity in society, in fact they are extremely common. Therefore it is very difficult to guarantee every piece of furniture is bed bug free, unless it is treated with Vikane gas, or is frozen for a few consecutive days.

Case #3 - Virgina Beach, Virginia, February 2009

In September of 2009, a woman by the name of Michelle A. Scott sued the La Coquille Motel, an oceanfront establishment located on 16th street in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The woman sought $100,000 for compensation of medical treatment for her son, due to the bed bug infestation. According to Ms. Scott, her son was permanently damaged by the bed bugs, suffering from intense itching, pock marks, rashes, scarring, and public humiliation.

The owner of the hotel, Dan Perrella contends that the woman’s son already had scabs when they checked into the hotel. In fact, he claims he asked them if everything was okay when he noticed this, and that Ms. Scott replied to him saying that the boy had chickenpox. Although the story hit news in September of 2009, the case was originally reported to the public health department in February. The results of this lawsuit have not yet been publicly revealed.

Case #4 - Portland State University, January 2010

The most recent bed bug lawsuit was reported in January of this year, when students of Portland State University reported a sever infestation in one of the campuses popular apartment complexes. One of the students, Kris Thomason, claimed he had to visit a doctor due to an allergic reaction caused by the bed bugs. Although fumigation was used in the apartment rooms, this method may cause the bed bugs to migrate to other rooms, which only serves to expand the infestation.

Although the case has been reported to the administrative offices, the school is not allowing students to retrieve their belongings from the rooms unless they pay the early move-out fee, or pay the rest of the rent due on their lease agreement. As a result many of the students are seeking legal assistance, in an attempt to sue the school for damages and for their belongings.

The results of this lawsuit have not been publicly announced, however many agree that the school should at least release the students belongings if they are unable to successfully eradicate the infestation.

Conclusion

The above cases are just a small portion of the total amount of lawsuits that have been filed against business owners and other establishments in the past 10 years. Most of the cases do not receive a lot of public attention, and many of them are settled out of court due to the effect a lawsuit has on the overall popularity of a business. Many business owners would rather settle the case and provide compensation, instead of dealing with all of the bad press that is associated with a bed bugs lawsuit. As the bed bug epidemic continues to worsen around the world, all business owners that operate an intimate consumer business such hospitality or furniture renting should practice strict guidelines to prevent the exuberant financial loss that may result form bed bug lawsuits.

Landmark Case–

CHICAGO - A Chicago woman is suing a New York hotel for $20 million after she woke up in her bed with moreover 600 bed bug bites.

Leslie Fox, a 54 year-old booking agent, said that after spending four nights last July at the Nevele Hotel in Ellenville, New York, she woke up with red, irritated, itchy welts all over her body.

“My body felt as if it was on fire. I just wanted to tear it off!”

“I had no idea what was happening to me. We noticed the blood on the bed. I became very upset and alarmed,” she said.

Her husband was also bitten, but it was not nearly as severe as his wife’s.

The bugs were sent to the UIC lab and were found to in-fact be bed bugs.

After the report was made to hotel officials, they were offered two free nights at the hotel. But Leslie Fox and her lawyer declined the offer.

Joe O’Connor, the hotel’s lawyer, said he and his client have not seen the lawsuit so he couldn’t comment on the matter. He said the Nevelel hotel in New York has frequent treatment and inspection measure in place being done by professional pest control companies.

O’Connor also stated that he had called the lawyer who filed the initial suit and was “trying to work things out.”

This is one of many suits filed in the US recently claiming bed bugs have attacked people.

Bed bugs are bloodsucking parasites, however, they do not transmit diseases. Their bites are usually painless, and it can take several days for bite indications to even be visible on the body.

Red welts and irritation dissipate after a week or so, but one doctor says each person will react a little differently to the bed bug bites.

Leslie Fox, who has seen multiple dermatologists, stated that she’s still dealing with the problem. Fox claims to be scarred and mentally-stressed whenever she sleeps in a motel and is afraid that she may have inadvertently brought home bed bug eggs that could hatch.

She stated that she now travels with a flashlight and a magnifying glass to help her locate bed bugs.
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About Bed Bugs

Bed Bugs are extremely common, yet highly annoying parasitic pests that infest millions of beds. Since the bed bug reproduces so rapidly, is so tiny, and is capable of hiding deep within the material of beds and other furniture, it can be very difficult to eradicate and infestation completely. Therefore bed bug extermination is usually very expensive, and is a burden on hotel, motel, and rental company owners everywhere.

Unlike other pests, bed bugs do not succumb to chemical baits that could lure them out of their hiding places, since they feed only on blood. This makes it very difficult to bring the bed bugs to the surface of the furniture where they can be exterminated. Since stronger chemicals such as DDT are now illegal, the extermination process usually requires several visits which also impacts the overall cost of the procedure.

Cost of Extermination

When all of the factors are taken into consideration, the extermination can cost about $50,000 per building. Even after a thorough extermination, some bed bugs may remain, and quarantining a room is pointless, as the bed bugs can live for an entire year without a blood feeding. This means multiple exterminations may need to occur before the infestation is completely eradicated, and in buildings with lots intermittent visitors, such as hotels, the infestation can return very easily, as the bed bugs can transfer room articles of clothing and other personal belongings.

Although the cost of bed bug extermination can be estimated, the overall financial loss caused by these pests could be an immeasurable amount, as can be seen by the following examples of bed bug lawsuits within the past year.

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