bed bug lawsuit against the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Kensington, London

by nobugsonme on January 15, 2007 · 16 comments

in bed bug treatment, bed bug treatment in hotels, bed bugs, bed bugs and travel, bed bugs in hotels, england, legal aspects of bed bugs, london, new york, tipping point, united kingdom, usa

I was sent a press release today from lawyers working on a bed bug case. The news release is at PRforLAW.com and I have quoted some of the release below.

 

One Of The World’s Premier Luxury Hotels, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London, Rented Bed Bug-Infested Room To Prominent Licensing / Intellectual Property Attorney And Wife; Bites From the Parasites Located In Bug-Ridden Headboard Caused Hundreds Of Painful, Itchy, Swollen, Red Lesions In Their Faces, Eyelids, Backs, Shoulders, Necks, Arms And Hands; Parasites Embedded Themselves In Luggage, Which Caused New Infestation In Victims’ NYC Apartment, Federal Lawsuit Claims; Mandarin Oriental Admitted A Bed Bug Infestation Existed at the Hotel

NEW YORK CITY — Prominent licensing and intellectual property attorney Sidney Bluming, Esq., whose clients have included Elizabeth Taylor, Claudia Schiffer and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue models, is suing one of the world’s most exclusive hotels, London’s Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, for failing to prevent May 2006 bed bug attacks that seriously injured him and his wife and ruined the business trip for which they traveled to the U.K., according to Attorney Michael S. Weinstein.

Bluming and his wife then unknowingly transported the parasites with them back to New York. As a result, they had to discard furniture and personal items from their recently renovated Manhattan apartment and to their added embarrassment have the property fumigated, according to a federal Complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The press release claims that

The hotel took no precautions nor trained staff to prevent, or correct, bed bug infestation. During check-in the Blumings were initially advised that the room to which they were assigned was unavailable. Ultimately, they were assigned to the infested room for which they paid the conference rate of close to $500 USD per night. On the second night of their five-night stay, the Blumings noticed what first appeared as simple insect bites throughout their bodies. The bites multiplied each night of their stay, according to the Complaint.

Upon returning to New York the couple immediately sought medical attention and advised the hotel’s general manager of the bites they suffered during their stay. Bluming’s physician took a biopsy, while his wife’s physician and oncologist were consulted. As the Blumings worried about the cause of the lesions, the hotel withheld from them for nearly a week the knowledge that bed bug infestation was toblame, the Complaint states.

Defendant entities based in Hong Kong, London, and the U.S. were served in late December with the five-count Complaint. Fraud, Deceptive Trade Practice, Negligence, Recklessness, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, and Nuisance are alleged in the Complaint which seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

The final statement makes it clear that no one is immune to the anxiety bed bugs can produce:

“Sidney and Cynthia Bluming have great difficulty sleeping through the night. They wake up fitfully to check their bed for infestation or see if they’ve been bitten by bed bugs. They fear staying in a hotel. And they worry that the lab report which Mandarin Oriental is withholding could reveal additional health concerns originating from the bed bug infestation.” Weinstein said. “One of the most exclusive hotel chains in the world is turning a cold shoulder to customers it failed to protect. The Mandarin Oriental’s lack of responsibility, absence of compassion and refusal to provide additional information are shocking.”

To load a PDF of the full press release, click here.
To load a PDF of the complaint of Bluming v. Mandarin, click here.

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1 jessinchicago January 15, 2007 at 9:32 pm

This case highlights what has always been my deepest concern for those people who are victims of bedbug attacks at hotels: reinfestation. It’s more than enough for innocent people to be bitten mercilessly for one night or three as paying guests at hotels. That alone is immeasurably physically and emotionally traumatic. But reinfestation is the blunt-force truama, if you will, of bedbug related maladies.

I’m sure you can imagine (and some of you have experienced) the horror of realizing that the things that caused you so much pain and agony in the first place- the things you thought you’d left behind- had not only followed you without your knowledge, but then set up camp not only in your home, but IN YOUR BEDROOM, to feed on you at will.

Reading this press release, I am filled with anger towards the hotel industry in general, because the actions (or non-actions) taken by the Mandarin Oriental, at least according to the release, were blatantly self-serving, and I believe are representative of the attitude of the industry as a whole. The personnel at this hotel chose to jeopardize the physical and mental wellbeing of this couple- for almost a week- by apparently hiding what was clearly evidence of negligence on their part. Why? To what end? To attempt to figure out how to cover their asses, I’m sure.

This strikes a chord with me on a personal level, because I had travelled and stayed at a “nice” hotel on business a couple months prior to my infestation. At the recommendation of my PCO, I contacted that hotel, which is part of a prominent chain. I asked for the manager, and I stated the dates I had stayed there, told her I had gotten bedbugs sometime at or around that time, and then asked if they had any complaints of bed bugs during the time of my stay. The manager got very quiet for a second, and then started rattling off “facts” like a machine gun: “Bedbugs DO NOT get into suitcases or clothes or anything like that. They don’t get on you and travel or anything. And anyway, bedbugs would NEVER survive a plane ride from California to Chicago. Ever.” Interesting, no?

I got the feeling that manager had been briefed or trained on what to say in exactly that situation. I get the feeling many hotels are training their employees to go on the defensive at the first mention of the word “bed bug.” And I bet the focus is damage control for the image of the hotel, as opposed to taking responsibility and doing WHATEVER it takes- even if that means shutting down an entire floor or two of rooms for a month- to ensure their customers are protected from attacks on the premises and reinfestation back at home. It appears, from the multiple million-dollar-plus lawsuits that have been filed against hotels lately, that this would be a much less costly option, anyway.

In this case, the couple was unfortunate enough to take bedbugs home with them. They were forced to deal with reinfestation- the loss of personal possessions, the loss of sleep, the loss of comfort, the loss of countless dollars… The blunt-force trauma. How many others will experience this nightmare before hotels are mandated to follow a government issued and enforced code of control and eradication?

Or, more likely, how many millions will be spent on settlements in an attempt to keep a lid on this situation before the hospitality industry has had enough, and demands a viable solution?

Jess

2 Bugalina January 16, 2007 at 9:10 am

Jess…This is a nightmare, for everyone. I too stayed at a well recognized hotel chain at a Tucson Airport for one night. Three weeks later I had bed bugs..but I also had a house guest who had stayed at a hotel in Jamaica one week prior to the bed bug bites…so the bed bugs had to have come from either my stay or her stay, at a hotel…..Hotels would rather rent out rooms with than tell the truth…money money money….This is just the beginning of a long nightmare. The lawyer who stayed at the Mandarin Oriental is actually lucky. At least they can pinpoint their infestation and hopefully recover money for their financial losses…But what about all of the people we have on on bedbugger blog. People with limited incomes and small children, and elderly parents. People at the mercy of a cheap landlord and a government in denial. These wealthy people can insulate themselves. Others cannot. Where is the recognition on this devastating bug epidemic….Where is the necessary help…!

3 Bugalina January 16, 2007 at 10:49 am

I have a question…In every article referring to this lawyers infestation it says that he got rid of his bed bugs by having his apt. Fumigated , the word Exterminated is not used…To my understanding fumigation refers to Vikane Gas (trust me, this rich lawyer didn’t use home depot bug bombs)…To my understanding only a free standing home or structure can be Vikaned NOT an attached structure….I have said this before. If the wealthy are allowed to play by different rules in fighting their infestations, than the rest of us, then we are going to have a much more difficult time of getting something onto the market that will kill these monsters. I would really like to know exactly what measures were taken to “fumigate” Mr. Blumings apt.. In the meantime I applaud his lawsuit. He is right in suing, as bed bug infestations are horrific, and leave people with lasting physical and emotional scarring.

4 nobugsonme January 16, 2007 at 11:41 am

Jess– wonderful response!

Bugalina–yes, I think a few more of these and hotel chains will start to be more proactive.

About the fumigation: I understand Vikane can’t be used in one unit of a multi-unit dwelling, because the whole building has to be tented. I doubt they’re able to circumvent that rule. It’s more likely that the people writing the press release are not aware of the distinctions. The complaint says only their apartment was treated (so why the “embarrassment” surrounding that fumigation–it would make more sense that they were embarrassed because they DID tent the building and everyone had to know).

I also see the word fumigation in almost every article about college dorms being treated — and I think it’s the same phenomenon, people using “fumigation” incorrectly as shorthand for applying pesticides. A major peeve of mine, by the way. Because new Bedbuggers often rush to use bug bombs (“fumigation!”) and later discover the gross error this is.

5 Doug Summers MS January 16, 2007 at 12:29 pm

Hopefully, lawsuits like this one will bring accountability to the industry. We need regulations like the San Francisco Public Lodging Guidelines which requires disclosure, records and training for the staff. This is a huge issue for the housing & public lodging industry. Unfortunately the current response is to perform an attempt at a cover up. Legal actions may eventually persuade the industry to take responsibility for the problem.

On the other hand, can you imagine the logistics of trying to keep a large international hotel bed bug free in London? New guests check in every day. Any of them may bring a new infestation into the building. The guests that are bitten often do not know that they have been bitten by bed bugs. As a result the hotel often does not get notified. The lack of effective control agents and increasing resistance to the products that are on the market make total eradication an extremely difficult challenge.

I’m not interested in making excuses for negligence, but the hotel owners are in a difficult position. Ultimately I think accountability is the key that will bring about a change in their behavior. This is a public policy issue that will be heavily lobbied as it goes through the political process.

6 nobugsonme January 16, 2007 at 6:10 pm

Doug,

“Covering up the problem” seems to be the crux of this lawsuit. Yes, all hotels can get bed bugs, and can do so quickly. But they can’t get a LOT of bed bugs overnight. They must be accountable and take steps to avoid the situation, and must be honest about the source of the problem once a customer asks. In this case the couple unwittingly took the bugs home and even had biopsies from an oncologist, thinking the welts might be cancerous. Had the hotel told the truth, once they discovered the bugs and were asked directly about the presence of insects, things might not have been as bad.

But another factor seems to be that the number of bed bugs in this room was apparently quite large. It’s not like the previous occupant brought all those bugs in with them, in their suitcase. So these bugs have been biting and nesting in the hotel for some time.

The San Franisco Public Health document which details the guidelines Doug mentions are here (WARNING: click, and a PDF will load):
http://www.sfdph.org/eh/pubs/BbReg.pdf

7 Bugalina January 18, 2007 at 10:42 am

Someone posted on the bedbugger blog that the problem with people is that they want “absolutes” and that politicizing bed bugs is not the answer…I am sorry but I must disagree…If not an absolute death then are we to continue on accepting the fact that bed bugs can continue showing up in our homes ? Bed Bugs are insidious, they go the very core of one’s quality of life..most intelligent people cannot function optimally when they are being attacked by bed bugs..Its impossible. How many exterminations can we afford ? How many times can we be told to “pack it all up “….How can I ever sleep comfortably in a hotel bed again? Here is my kneejerk reply to the comment made about wanting absolutes…How long do we have to “tip toe” around bed bugs?
I cannot imagine demanding anything but an absolute
death when it comes to bed bugs…..How can people in
America be expected to accept bed bugs….They are now
being found in Hotels, motels, airplanes, schools, colleges,
transport vehicles ( I often wonder whether mine came
from the town car that I took home from JFK
)…trains, apt. bldgs., homes , movie theatres, stores, on and
on….In order to exterminate them one must strip
their homes down to a bare bones environment and be
subjected to constant exterminations, which are
costly..financially and emotionally..So if there are
no absolutes, then I translate to mean that life must
continue down this road…Do I have to accept the fact
that bed bugs can easily be brought back into my home
and that I will once again have to spent thousands on
extermination and then it can happen again…and
again…and that doesn’t speak to the fact that all
of my belongings are in storage…I can take them out
of storage but then if bed bugs show up again…I have
to repack everything…all my books, my collectibles, my furniture
…a lifetime of things..that I am now living
without…I think people MUST politicize bed
bugs…They go to the very core of quality of life…the
core…They were eradicated once before from North America…Why should we not expect them to be
eradicated once again…How can we go on tiptoeing
around bed bugs…Well you can say…Don’t tip
toe…and if they show up…have your life turned
upside down again…and spend thousands of dollars
again…I totally support these lawsuits….having had
bed bugs I am a changed person…I can never again
stay in a hotel comfortably..sit in a movie theatre seat, nor take a town car to
the airport …nor rest easy knowing my son is living
in a college apt…on and on….If it was just a
matter of a few dollars and a monthly visit from the
exterminator..I could accept that….But you know
..this is not the case….Its a nightmare…nothing
less than a nightmare..and I for one want an absolute
for bed bugs….I want to live like I did before
them….I want to live like my parents did…not
having to worry about bugs infesting their beds,
furniture , floors, walls, laying in wait to suck
their blood….its a travesty that this is being
allowed to get to such epidemic proportions….I think
only those who have experienced having them live in
the wilds of their homes, can truly grasp the
nightmare of bedbugs…This is a communicable bug folks…it spreads on people..its very serious and must be given attention from those who pass legislation…We need help…..Deb

8 Doug Kegler January 29, 2007 at 10:24 am

I am another victim of the bed bugs from Jan 20, 2007. Luckily, I happened to wake up only after sleeping for 2 hrs and noticed the bugs all over the bed. I left the hotel and they didnt charge me for the room. But, I thought I hadnt been bitten, and to my surprise welts starting appearing on my body 7 days after the visit. I read that each person is different and it can take up to 9 days for the welts to appear. My concern is that hotels are not pro-active in looking for signs. I received approx. 40 bites in only 2 hours. I’m sure every other occupant of this DaysInn hotel room that slept through the night got a lot more bites than I did.

9 buggedinbrooklyn January 29, 2007 at 10:40 am

welcome Doug,
sorry to hear your story.
I never woke up to ever see them on me, but I too woke up on my first night with as much as 40 bites on my arm.

anyway, I never heard of bite showing up so late…7 days later sounds odd to me.
I wonder if you broght home any bugs. lets hope not.

anyway, please read the FAQ at the top of the page and I hope others will chime in about such a delayed reaction.

buggedinbrooklyn

10 Doug Kegler January 29, 2007 at 11:30 am

Here are 3 articles that I read that said it can take 9 days for lesions. (Its under Disease and Health Risks paragraph). I too hope I didnt bring any back. But, I’ve been home of a week and my wife doesnt have any bites.

http://www.pestcontrolcanada.com/INSECTS/get_rid_of_bed_bugs.htm

http://medent.usyd.edu.au/fact/bedbugs.html

http://health.state.ga.us/pdfs/environmental/handbook%20v9.pdf

11 Bugalina January 29, 2007 at 12:48 pm

Doug…I hate to tell you this, but it is possible that you transported them home with you…also Please go onto TripAdvisor and report the Days Inn infestation on it…..helping others to advoid bed bugs is crucial….Bugalina

12 nobugsonme January 29, 2007 at 5:18 pm

Doug, I second the recommendation to go to tripadvisor.com and write a review. It’s an easy way to warn others–I personally check it before booking.

EVERYONE–please continue responses to Doug on the latest “Tales of Bed Bug Woe” thread INSTEAD of here. It will have more readers:
http://bedbugger.com/tag/tales-of-bed-bug-woe/

13 stoptheinsanity December 9, 2008 at 2:33 pm

Hello,

Has anyone ever heard of a college being sued for bed bugs?

14 nobugsonme December 9, 2008 at 2:40 pm

Hi–

No, I don’t think so.

But this Fordham student sued the provider of her 3rd party student housing.

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