Lady Wins $100,000 Bedbug Lawsuit Against Red Roof Inn

I’m sure most road warriors have either dealt with bedbugs before, or at least had a bedbug scare when staying at a hotel. While I don’t envy hotels for having to control for bedbugs, they do also have an obligation to make sure they’re selling clean rooms. So it sucks, but that’s the business they’re in.

The Washington Post has a story about a lady who had bedbugs in her room at a Red Roof Inn near Washington DC, and ended up suing the hotel over it.

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She stayed at the hotel for one night in January 2014, and woke up itching, finding her arms and hands covered in welts. She then found bedbugs crawling under the blanket:

“She was completely disgusted,” said her lawyer Daniel Whitney, of Towson.

In the lawsuit, Belle claimed that the Oxon Hill motel had previously found bedbugs in guest rooms and treated infestations. But the hotel did not check that Belle’s room was free of bedbugs before it rented it out to her, the lawsuit claimed.

So the hotel had previously found bedbugs and had treated them. But they apparently didn’t specifically check to see if this guest’s room was free of bedbugs (or perhaps didn’t have a proper protocol in place to consistently check rooms).

Amazingly she was awarded a $100,000 settlement for the bites and subsequent distress! Not surprisingly, Red Roof Inn disagrees with the ruling:

In an e-mailed statement, a Red Roof Inn spokeswoman said Thursday that the company “disagrees” with the jury’s award and “plans on exercising all of its rights related thereto.”

I guess it should come as no surprise that the guest’s attorney is an ambulance chaser bedbug chaser:

In Maryland, Belle’s lawyer — Whitney — has become known locally for filing dozens of lawsuits that seek a total of millions of dollars in damages related to bedbug cases. He said most of his cases are against apartment building owners and managers who the victims say were negligent in dealing with infestations.

Whitney has become known as the “bedbug attorney.”

Bottom line

I can see both sides here. I’m generally as pro-consumer as they come, though in this case:

  • Clearly the guest didn’t suffer to the tune of $100,000
  • At the same time, I’m all for hotels being “punished” for negligence
  • At the same time (yet again), it sounds like the hotel had treated bedbug problems in the past, so it’s not like they were ignoring it altogether

But goodness, $100,000 in damages for one instance of bedbugs!

What do you make of this ruling?

(Tip of the hat to LoyaltyLobby)

Comments

  1. The guest certainly didn’t suffer to the tune of $100,000. However, the bedbug problem is such a major one, hotels need to be fined exorbitantly to take the problem seriously and take proper action – this hotel obviously had not. It’s not about the guest suffering for $100k, it’s that for anything less, hotels would rather pay a couple thousand to not have to properly take care of the problem.

  2. I’m sure this lady complained to the hotel prior filing to the case but she has been disregarded therefore she went to the curt to show the hotel(s) that they are obligated to keep the rooms clean otherwise they have to pay 6 figure fines. The $100k is definitely more than her damages but I think about 50% of that money goes directly to the lawyer as a success fee.

  3. While I don’t believe that this one instance should have awarded the woman $100,000, I do believe that it took something like $100,000 to make the hotel learn. Bedbugs are totally unacceptable in any occasion.

  4. Speaking from personal experience, I wouldn’t even think about taking $100k over having bed bugs. Given attorney fees, I’d say anything less than 2x to 3x would be fair.

  5. Those that are saying she didn’t experience 100k worth of suffering have never obviously had experience with bed bugs.

    It’s a horrible, horrible thing to deal with.

  6. Wow, lots of legal experts here in the comments.

    Insofar as I can tell from the lawyer’s website — lots of really gross pictures, by the way — and from the Washington Post, there were no punitive damages here.

    Let me nevertheless give you all a hint from the land of legal reality: there’s every chance that the verdict will be reduced on appeal. Still, you can never be sure.

    It will be interesting to see what eventually happens, assuming that the actual end result (likely a settlement) is even publicized at all.

  7. Lucky, do you check for bedbugs in every hotel before you settle in? I do, religiously, and recommend everyone do. Bedbugs travel through your luggage to your home, and once there takes months, if not more, of dedicated work to eradicate, since they’re pretty resilient to lots of things, including cold, pesticides, etc. And, I would have lots of trouble sleeping if I actually woke up and saw bugs on me.

    In short, $100K sounds on the low side to me.

  8. Anyone who thinks $100k is too high is someone who has never experienced the horror of having bedbugs. Hotels need to be fined huge amounts so that controlling infestations is cheaper than not doing so.

  9. I had an unfortunate experience with bedbugs in an Airbnb this past Bastille Day in Paris. On my first night staying in a studio in the 2nd, my friend and I discovered a bedbug scurrying across our bed. Luckily, we saw it before we slept in it…however, when we called Airbnb, they told us to throw away our suitcases, pack up all of clothes in garbage bags and go to a hotel for which they would cover up to $175 a night. Well, it was Paris, and it was their 4th of July, and it was 11:30PM, so finding a hotel that was decent for under $200 a night was near impossible. We ended up at a place that was around $275 a night, lost all of our clothes that couldn’t go through the dryer, our suitcases and other possessions because we didn’t want to risk the bedbugs. In the end, we were out about $1,000, plus spent a day in 100F heat laundering all of our clothes and shoes. It was a learning experience for my friend and I, and I highly doubt we will ever stay at an Airbnb again (not that hotels don’t have bedbugs, but at least hotels will protect you, and if they don’t, you can sue them, whereas suing Airbnb is near impossible). Oh, and for the record, upon searching, that specific Airbnb is still able to be rented in Paris. Never put your suitcase on the bed (or tables/chairs for that matter), and ALWAYS inspect the mattress when first going into a hotel or Airbnb.

  10. @Lucky: What have been your experiences with bed bugs? You’ve travelled enough to have some sort of idea about them. Even the best hotels have to deal with them.

    For that matter, how does everyone else handle them? I’ve been very fortunate to not have encountered them (yet) and do always worry that I’ll end up having to at some point. I spend more time on the road than I do in my own bed, so this is a great concern to me.

    $100k sounds excessive to me, but at the same time, I’d be almost worth $100K to me to avoid bedbugs.

  11. betterbub said exactly what I was thinking. If she had only been awarded a couple thousand bucks (which was probably the cost to her for replacing her clothing and luggage, etc. as well as any medications needed) they probably wouldn’t have done anything about it. But after a cost like this, they’ll probably do the right thing temporarily and fumigate the whole building.

    I think the issue people have when they see things like this is that it’s going to a single person. Had it been a $100,000 fine by a health regulator people would probably say it’s not enough.

  12. 1 – bedbug is horrifying, we the fragile generation need compensations for any negative mental or physical experience otherwise we cannot sleep or work or function.
    2 – the $ amount sought is based on how much the lawyer would feel to make his fees out of the case, the nature of case is irrelevant
    3 – another dog-bites-dog between lawyers and corporations, with consumers as medium.

  13. Bedbugs are not only in hotels……I was bitten in a rental car….in Canada….and I have no idea how one might check for them in a rental car….

  14. @Bonnie: Oh, how I wish you didn’t say that…I’m heading to Canada in 2 weeks…and renting a car… my skin’s crawling just thinking about that.

  15. Hotels do not bring in bed bugs, other guests that stay there with you do. Just like schools do not bring in lice, students do. It is hard for hotels to contain something that their customers continually drag in. But the maids should inspect each bed before giving the vacant clean okay. Unfortunately with bedbugs they are not always visible and can hide in the mattress itself. Plus they are hard to kill.

  16. hotels should incorporate innovative cleaning practices and use the right type of bed frames (glass, metal, slippery legs) i think steaming, ironing the bed regularly is very important, they can also install monitoring stickies under the bed frame. I am sure this will increase the costs a lot but this problem is serious in their business. They could also give instructions to guests on not put their suitcases on the bed, not to put their clothes on the bed and such.

  17. I have just experienced a bed bug infestation from a Red Roof Inn and I hope I get 3x’s what she got. I bought them home from vacation and I am stil scratching and itching like crazy. I am up all hours of the night from these things welts all over me, like somebody beat the s**t out of me. I have diabetes and now I am off my schedule for taking my medicine. I have even caught two of the buggars crossing my comforter. So you know that went in the trash along with alot of other stuff. So how much should I be compensated for THE FEE OF THE FILTHY ROOM.

  18. 100 k is nothing compare to the pain and suffering that she probably went thru. My 6-year-old son was attacked severely by bedbugs. 7 months later, he is still suffering scaring and had developed skins infection and bad scarring from them. He is traumatized from that experiences. Every time we drive by a hotel he asked is that the hotel where the bed bugs were crawling on him. I have been the worst experiences ever. 7 months later and we still dealing with doctors, specialists, and medical treatment to get rid of the infection and the scars.

  19. I have had an experience with bed bug ..it’s horrible ! 100 K imay not be enough in some cases ! I’m now so paranoid that I much rather sleep in the car than in a motel or hotel ! After 5 weeks most of the marks are still there ! If anyone has never had beg bug bites , they have no idea of the amount misery . Linda G.

  20. hotel where I live is infested with lice and bed bugs and the management refuse to do anything about the problem. I move into this hotel on the first of February and two days later I was infested with both lice and bed bugs bites. I have been to the emergence room and it was confirmed. they treated me and I went back to the same as the manager refuses to do anything. so I have been infested and reinfested since about the third of February. I was forced to call the city of San Diego environmental and code enforcement and was given a case number. please help me and if you cannot direct me in a direction where I may find it.

  21. What is the number of a good bed bug lawyer? We got them in Rockport, TX in May and it has cost us over $1000 in medicine, sprays, exterminators, new vacuum, continuous washing and drying, bagging up everything in my closet and put in black bags in the garage. We are scarred on our arms and now our entire house is infested because we thought it was mosquitoes in the gulf coast area. I am exhausted, 73 year old woman who now has to postpone back surgery until I can get rid of them. I am in agony in more ways than one. Please respond with a lawyer to topgun10@yahoo.com.

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