Recently, there have been several lawsuits filed against hotels and landlords for bed bug bites, because of an apparent comeback by the pests that had at one point been nearly eradicated.
In one publicized case, a luxurious hotel in London was sued after a guest and his wife each suffered hundreds of bites after staying there. In another, a former guest is suing a New York hotel for $20 million after suffering hundreds of bites over a period of four nights.
What Damages Can I Recover from Bed Bug Injuries?
Bed bug victims can recover:
- Inspection and extermination costs
- Medical expenses
- Move out expenses
- Emotional distress
- Related costs
How Can Landlord or Hotel Owners Be Liable for Bed Bugs?
Owners and their agents have a legal obligation to ensure that their properties are fit for human habitation. This is known as the "implied warranty of habitability." If the owner or management company allows the property to fall into disrepair, or allows pest infestations (such as bed bugs) to take hold, they are liable to the tenant for any harm that results.
Alternatively, owners and their agents may also be subject to disclosure liability. Some states and cities have laws which require that property owners disclose the presence of bed bugs in their property. Failure to warn tenants or guests about bedbugs could subject the owner or the owner’s agent to liability as well.
As a practical matter, this usually relieves the tenant of the duty to pay rent, or a part thereof. The tenant might also be entitled to compensation for any injuries or health problems that result from the infestation of bed bugs.
Damages may be higher if the tenant or guest can prove that the landowner knew about the bed bug infestation, and did not take reasonable steps to address it.
Does a Property Owner Have Any Defenses to a Bed Bug Injury Claim?
The best defense a property owner has is to make sure that such claims do not arise in the first place. Property owners should inspect their property to ensure that bed bugs and other possible insect and rodent infestations are absent from their property.
The most obvious legal defense is to claim that the owner didn’t cause the tenant or guest’s injury by neglect. For example, if the tenant brought his or her own mattress and that mattress was filled with bed bugs, than it was the tenant’s own fault for not inspecting the mattress.
Likewise, if a hotel guest has a child who was covered with bed bugs before staying at the hotel, than the hotel could not have had time to prepare for or eliminate the threat.
Should I Consult an Attorney about a Bed Bug Injury?
Bed bug liability can be difficult to establish. Additionally, there may be defenses which can bar recovery. An experienced personal injury attorney can help explain the law and set up your case.