All You Want to Know About Bed Bugs and the Law

" Sleep Tight, Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite - The Impact of Bed Bugs on Our Daily and Legal Lives" is the new go-to resource on bed bug litigation.  David E. Cassidy and others wrote this article for the Fall 2011 edition of FDCC Quarterly published by the Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel.

The Introduction gives us this summary of the rest of the article:

Part II provides an overview of how bed bugs have re-entered our society and outlines information that everyone should know about this pest. Part III explains the history and biology of bed bugs. Part IV highlights how bed bugs have impacted the hotel industry and addresses how to keep the workplace safe to keep productivity up and liability claims down. Part V provides an overview of the growing field of bed bug litigation. Part VI discusses the relevant statutes and regulations that impact employers and protect employees from bed bugs in the workplace environment.

Are bed bugs a problem?  Check out these statistics:

Although hotels have become familiar with the surge of bed bug claims in recent years, the volume and nature of such claims are expected to continue to grow.21 Bed bug infestations are reported to have increased 300% nationally between 2000 and 2001, 70% between 2001 and 2002, and 70% between 2002 and 2003.  Approximately 20,000 bed bug reports have been made to bedbugregistry.com since summer 2010 for hotels throughout the United States.

[Footnotes omitted.]

Bedbugregistry.com?  Yep. "The Bed Bug Registry exists to give travelers and renters a reliable and neutral platform for reporting their encounters with bed bugs. Though most Americans have still never come across one, these retro pests are spreading extremely quickly across American and Canadian cities."  The site does not check for veracity of the reports and the reports appear to stay on the site for several years.  Note, however, that the site can be used to argue that a hotel has constructive knowledge of a problem with bed bugs.

The bed bug problem is so great that  the EPA holds annual meetings on the subject, called the  "National Bed Bug Summit."   A list of "Participant Recommendations"  were developed at the 2009 Summit.  The EPA website on bed bugs is filled with information about the problem.

The article includes a collection of case law from around the nation on the subject, and informs us about Prell v. Columbia Sussex Corp., Civil No. 07-2189, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84536 (D. Pa. Oct. 20, 2008).  In Prell, the court denied a defense motion for summary judgment in a case where a homeowner should to hold a hotel liable for a secondary infestation of bed bugs at his family home.

The authors of this article have performed a valuable service to lawyers by gathering this information.  The article is a must-read for any lawyer who is investigating a bed bug claim on behalf of a plaintiff or a lawyer who has been assigned the defense of a bed bug case.

In closing, I must confess that reading all of this has made me itch all over.  Here are some tips from the EPA about protecting yourself from harm from bed bugs:

 

When cleaning, changing bedding, or staying away from home, look for:

  • Dark spots (about this size: •) which are bed bug excrement and may bleed on the fabric like a marker would
  • Eggs and eggshells, which are tiny (about 1mm) and white
  • Skins that nymphs shed as they grow larger
  • Live bed bugs
  • Rusty or reddish stains on bed sheets or mattresses caused by bed bugs being crushed

Now, please excuse me.  I need to take a shower.  Or two.

 

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