Bed bug bite suit alleges 'embarrassing' injury

Legal News Line Jul. 30, 2007, 9:52am

A New York woman who allegedly suffered bed–bug bites during her stay at a Hilton hotel in Ohio has sued the corporation for more than $5 million in a case currently proceeding in the Southern District of New York. The plaintiff, Sai Kim, alleges that she checked into Room 336 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Columbus, Ohio on March 26 during a business trip. After a two-night stay in the room, Kim allegedly discovered more than 150 bed-bug bites on her hands, feet, face, fingers, toes, legs, neck, back, chest, stomach and genitals. "As a direct result of exposure to bed bugs," the complaint alleges, the plaintiff "was left physically scarred and emotionally damaged and that these consequences were a direct result of the defendant's negligence." The complaint alleges that the Hilton Corporation breached its duty to provide reasonably safe accommodations, which in turn led to "embarrassing injury and tremendous emotional distress." The suit was initially filed in May 2007 in the Supreme Court of New York in New York County, and removed by the Hilton Corporation to the U.S. District Court for New York's Southern District. In its answer to the complaint, Hilton denied negligence and asserted contributory negligence and assumption of risk on the plaintiff's part. The corporation's answer also cast blame on the owner/operator of the hotel in question. Suits of this nature have become increasingly common during the past few years as bed bugs have re-emerged in various areas across the country. The resurgence of bed bugs in North America is attributed partially to shifts in pest-control techniques and the disuse of controversial pesticides such as DDT. Bedbug infestations can also spread quickly due to the ease with which the insects travel in a hotel guest's clothing or luggage. Since bedbugs are nocturnal and difficult to spot, a person sleeping in an infested area might not know of the insects' presence until bite marks appear. Once a hotel experiences a bed bug infestation, clean-up is only its first concern, as multimillion dollar suits against hotel owners and franchises have become the norm in situations mirroring that which Kim allegedly experienced. A pre-trial conference for Kim's case against the Hilton Corporation was heard by Judge Kevin Castel on July 20. According to Judge Castel's order, discovery is to be completed by Nov. 17 and the next case management hearing is set for Dec. 7. The parties have discussed settlement options but have not come to terms on any figures as of yet.

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