Since the 1990s, bed bug infestations have increased and are now a global problem. In Los Angeles County, infestations have been reported in hotels, short-term rentals, and multi- and single-family homes.
Bed bug bites can cause irritation and itching. Some people can have an allergic reaction to the bites and may require medical treatment. Depending on the severity of the bites, you may miss work or have to cut a vacation short. Bed bugs can damage property or require the replacement of items to end an infestation.
If you've suffered medical issues, property damage, or other losses from bed bugs, you may wish to file a lawsuit for compensation. While California has passed several laws recently to assist those injured by bed bugs, some challenges persist if you choose to file a lawsuit.
In recent years, California has enacted laws protecting tenants and visitors from bed bugs. Some of these laws include:
- Landlords cannot retaliate against tenants who notify either the landlord or a health department of a bed bug infestation
- Landlords cannot show or rent an apartment if they know of a bed bug infestation
- Landlords must notify tenants of any bed bug infestations
- After a landlord receives a report of an infestation, they must hire an inspector to check for bed bugs. The landlord must also notify tenants of the findings of that inspection.
Challenges to Bed Bug Lawsuits
Despite these protections, filing a lawsuit due to bed bugs isn't easy. These are five common challenges that face those who file a lawsuit against a property owner or other individual or organization.
The law defines proximate cause as an event closely related to an injury. In the case of bed bugs, you need to prove that a certain property caused your bed bug bites or subsequent infestation. Cases have been reported on public transit, libraries, and even clothing stores. If you travel frequently, you may have difficulty proving a connection between a certain property and bed bugs.
You must show that a landlord or property owner was aware of the infestation. That their property has an infestation is not sufficient grounds for a lawsuit: You must show that they knew about an infestation.
You can do this by finding hotel reviews that mention bed bugs, although this could cause problems for your case (see below). Your attorney may request records or other files showing they were aware of the problem, such as an invoice from a pest control company.
Short-term Rental Middlemen
Short-term rental companies such as Airbnb have grown exponentially in recent years. Not a hotel and not a traditional rental, local municipalities are still determining how to craft policies to address them. Laws can differ widely between jurisdictions and are constantly evolving.
What this means for bed bugs is that the companies, as brokers, are not liable for any bed bug infestations. You will need to sue the homeowners to collect damages.
One possible exception is if you can show that a company was aware of an infestation and still allowed the property owner to rent out the dwelling.
A Landlord's defense: Awareness of Problem
If you knew of an infestation and still moved into a building, you might find damages reduced under comparative negligence. Likewise, if you are able to find reviews that a hotel had bed bugs, the hotel owner could argue that you could have learned of the problem before checking into the hotel. This defense and its success depend on the specific facts of your case.
A Landlord's Defense: Carrier
When you file a lawsuit for bed bugs, a landlord or property owner may say that you were the one who brought them onto the property. A landlord may even countersue and say that you should be the responsible party for any damages.
All of these challenges can be counterbalanced by evidence. Communications with a landlord, medical records, photographs: The more information you can assemble, the stronger your case will be.
You should be prepared to show how you were not liable or negligent for any infestation. You want to show that you took the necessary precautions and, in some cases, followed the law on reporting and responding to bed bug infestations.
Proving liability for a bed bug infestation can be difficult, which is why you want to hire a legal team experienced in personal injury lawsuits to obtain the compensation you deserve.