Few things in the world can approach the sheer discomfort caused by bed bugs. This undeniable fact may have played some role in the recent $1.6 million-dollar payout for a bed bug lawsuit.
It is not the first bed bug lawsuit in California, nor is the overall award the largest. In December of 2017, a Los Angeles apartment complex was slammed by a $3.5 million-dollar lawsuit. However, that reward was split between 16 renters across eight separate units. The case that was concluded this April revolved around a single family at an Inglewood, California apartment building.
Such lawsuits may become more common in the future. A surge of bed bug infestations has swept across the United States. Once thought to be near extinction, the 1990s saw Cimex lectularius, the common bed bug species, develop a frightening level of resistance to pesticides used to control them. Today’s bed bug is more resilient than ever, and nearly impossible to control without expert help.
It doesn’t take much effort to find horror stories about bed bugs on the internet. Despite the efforts of professional exterminators from New York to Southern California, these little neighbors are seemingly here to stay.
Months of Neglect by Property Management Drove Family to File Bed Bug Lawsuit
In 2010, the Martinez family moved in to their Inglewood, CA apartments. Two years later, their then 3-year-old son began showing signs of bed bug bites. It was something the family had never seen before. When their son was officially diagnosed, they immediately searched for the bugs.
They found the bugs in their son’s bed. To their horror, they even found bed bugs feeding on the back of their 3-month-old infant daughter.
When the Martinez family reported the infestation to Westland Industries, the company managing their complex, they were told to throw out any affected furniture. Fumigation covered the apartment in a white powder, but did not end the infestation.
The Martinez Family Endured “Slum-like” Living Conditions
The family was forced to sleep on a small portion of the rug they’d vacuumed the white powder away from. Unknown to them at first, they were resting directly in contact with even more bed bugs.
After four months of complaints, and continued bites, the property management finally took decisive action. The carpet of the entire apartment was removed, which helped put a decisive end to the pests. The Martinez family would move out of the complex in 2014, and would file the bed bug lawsuit in the same year.
The son was left scarred by the ordeal, unable to stop himself from scratching the numerous bites on his arms and legs. But the bugs were hardly the only problem with the apartment. A cockroach infestation also went unaddressed during the ordeal.
One Bed Bug Lawsuit, Many To Follow?
With bed bugs becoming resistant to current pesticides, infestations like the ones experienced by the Martinez family may be more common. And research is showing that this comes with some serious health concerns.
Some household pests have been shown to carry dangerous diseases. While bed bugs themselves have yet to show the ability to carry disease, the waste they leave behind presents a different threat: histamines.
Produced naturally by the human body, histamines provoke immune system responses. It is also responsible for allergic symptoms and responses to foreign substances in our bodies, including asthma. Recent research shows that bed bugs produce histamines, and that removing the bugs does not mean the histamines will go with them right away. There is little research on what such exposure to histamines means to human health.
There are other, incidental risks that come with bed bugs. Amateur efforts to control bed bugs have led to serious personal injury and property damage. While the Martinez family did the right thing by trying to get professional help, other families in similar circumstances may not make the same decisions.
With bed bug infestations becoming more difficult to root out, decisive action is all but required. But as the case shows, Westland Industries waited months before moving in to replace the apartment’s carpeting. During that time, their initial control methods failed to produce results. The record also shows that the Martinez family complained about the ongoing infestation, but apartment management was slow to act on those complaints. That delay proved to be a decisive factor in the lawsuit.
Other property management firms will likely be scrutinized for any future bed bug lawsuit. And with evidence suggesting possible health risks beyond the immediacy of dozens of bites, the reward amounts in these lawsuits have the potential to grow.