This isn’t a promo for the latest science fiction thriller. It’s a reality series playing out in apartments, rental homes, and hotels across the country – dwellings infested with parasitic bed bugs whose suffering occupants seek legal restitution against landlords and hotel and motel owners for damages close to a million dollars or more.
Many of these plaintiffs are winning!
Last year a Maryland jury awarded an elderly woman $850,000 in damages after she suffered bed bug bites in an apartment she said the landlord knew was infested. The landlord even had an official city order to eradicate the problem before the woman moved in. He attempted to rid the pests himself with heaters, which typically only works when done by highly trained and experienced bed bug exterminators like AZEX Pest Solutions using high quality heaters and cutting edge techniques.
When his amateurish attempt using common floor heaters didn’t kill the bugs, he continued to rent out dwellings – costing him hundreds of thousands of dollars more than if he had sought professional extermination. In her court testimony, the 69-year-old tenant said she showed her rash-like welts to the landlord who insisted he didn’t know what they were from. Months later a county housing worker informed the woman they were bed bug bites and a lawsuit was filed by the elderly woman. The jury deliberated for less than one hour before reaching a verdict, awarding the woman TWICE the amount she originally sought. In essence, the legal system is showing it will not tolerate negligence.
And it’s not the first lawsuit of its kind.
In Iowa, nearly 300 residents filed a civil class-action lawsuit in 2011 against the building managers of two separate apartment complexes. Residents claimed they were deceptively led to believe their apartments were habitable when they signed leases only to discover the units were infested with bed bugs after they moved in. The lawsuit went to the state’s Superior Court for review and is pending. Attorneys say that when cases like this are filed, plaintiffs can be awarded damages for ascertainable losses, and up to four times those damages if they can prove willful misconduct on the part of the property managers.
One of the earliest lawsuits was filed in 2000 and won by two siblings who stayed in a Chicago Motel 6 that was infested with bed bugs. The plaintiffs told the judge they awakened at 1 a.m. to find bed bugs scurrying for cover under the sheets and roaming the walls, lamps and beds of the hotel room. The pair sued and won $191,000 each in damages.
The case, Mathias vs. Accor Economy Lodging, is notable in that the exterminating company used by the motel found bed bugs in several rooms two years before the couple discovered them. The exterminating company offered a mere $500 to the hotel to eliminate the pests, but the hotel refused the service, proving to be a costly mistake for the motel’s financial stability and reputation. It appears this new trend in bed bug lawsuits is not going away anytime soon.
Bed bug infestations are reaching epidemic numbers across the country due to increased travel, the ban of DDT use (a potent chemical that nearly eradicated the pests decades ago), and the insect’s increased resistance to common pesticides. Infestations are creating social and health nuisances for hotel, apartment, and movie theater owners, among others who manage public spaces. The public is not patient with these encounters.
Even states are taking notice, passing bed bug statutes and legislation to protect citizens. Twenty-two states – almost half the country – has specific bedbugs laws, including Texas, Nevada, Michigan, California and Arizona. Arizona has enacted more bed bug laws than any other states, including a statute that specifically warns landlords they cannot knowingly rent a bed bug-infested unit.
Bed Bugs, the almost the size and color of an apple seed, wreak emotional, physical and psychological havoc because as they are not easy to see in daylight, coming out to feed mostly at night, and are extremely hard to kill. Basic methods like pesticide sprays successfully used on other insects do not work well on hardy bed bugs because the sprays motivate them to hiding and some life stages can survive without a blood meal for upwards of one year.
It is wise for managers and landlords to contract AZEX Pest Solutions to use their K9 teams to PROACTIVELY search for the presence of live bed bugs before the litigation-driven public does. By being proactive a property owner can avoid lawsuits and claims by managing their units with the highest standards of care, like hiring highly experienced, licensed exterminators to perform regular bed bug inspections, particularly now that attorneys are appealing to the public to take action with high-dollar lawsuits.
Savvy and proactive landlords hire professionals like AZEX Pest Solutions to use trained bed bug detection dogs whose high olfactory senses can detect the presence of these parasites with 97 % accuracy. Regular inspection reports will offer a level of protection that can be presented in court. Not doing anything can create a significant legal, financial and public relations burden.
Call Today to Get Your Property Proactive Bed Bug Protection!