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Of Bedbugs and Lawsuits

Posted: November 29th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: | 1 Comment »

“There’s Only One Way to Deal With Bedbugs: Release the Sharks.”  So says the Maryland attorney who has been filing some high profile lawsuits, with hefty damages from $100,000 to 3.5 million. 

Christopher Robinette, a professor at Widener University School of Law in Harrisburg, Pa., wrote a review of the lawsuits in the TortProfsBlog, expressing some skepticism about the enormity of the damages being sought.  According to his article, a previous case (Mathias) sets the bar pretty high for securing punitive damages.

Finally, a fairly standard punies regime requires a plaintiff to prove some type of conscious and deliberate behavior on the part of the defendant.  In Mathias, the hotel owners were informed about the bed bugs.  Instead of paying for a $500 extermination, the owners allowed the bed bug situation to fester for nearly two years.  It was widely known the hotel had bed bugs.  There were certain rooms that employees were not supposed to rent out because of the bugs, yet the rooms were rented if there were not enough other rooms available.  Guests were informed the bugs were ticks (as if that’s better!).  Under these circumstances, the court upheld a punies verdict of $186,000.  If proving notice in the Maryland cases will require the discovery of significant facts, for punies the bar is even higher. 

Is bedbug bling the fashion of tomorrow?



Bedbug Lawsuits

Posted: November 5th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Along with the bedbug resurgence comes the inevitable rise in lawsuits. Did you forget we live in the Litigious States of America? If something goes wrong, there is surely a suit to follow. People are suing companies for selling them merchandise contaminated with bedbugs and they are also suing hotels where they allege they have picked up the pernicious passengers.

In one case, J.C. Penney was found liable for damages when they shipped out bedbug infested bedroom furniture.  A couple in Illinois were given a sizable reward in punitive damages against a Motel 6.

Currently, the Waldorf Astoria finds itself the target of a lawsuit (thanks to reader V.S. for the tip!) According to the article:

The Waldorf says it did not find evidence of bed bugs in the Drabicki’s room. “The Waldorf Astoria takes allegations of bedbugs very seriously because the safety and well-being of our guests is of paramount importance,” the hotel said in a statement. “While we typically do not comment on pending litigation, we will share that the hotel took the guestroom in question out of service and had it inspected by an outside specialist. The official inspection reports stated there was no evidence or indication of bedbugs.

We wonder how easy it is to prove exactly where the bugs came from and what the success ratio of such lawsuits will be over time. In any case, as long as any judgments are awarded, there will be people to file them.