Couple wins $49K in infested furniture bed bug lawsuit

by nobugsonme on July 10, 2008 · 7 comments

in bed bug lawsuits, bed bugs, consumers, legal aspects of bed bugs, new jersey

Diep Huynh and Oanh Nguyen, a Pennsauken, NJ couple who claim they got bed bugs from a new bedroom furniture set, won $49,000 in a jury trial.

Today a jury awarded the Pennsauken, N.J. couple $49,000 finding that the bedroom furniture they purchased at J.C. Penney in Cherry Hill was infested with bed bugs. “For months, they didn’t know what was causing all their problems and the itching. When they found out that it was the bed bugs, it’s kind of like, it freaks you out a little bit,” said Kevin Siegel, an attorney for the family.

The family bought the furniture back in May of 2006. It was delivered 3 months later in June. It included a chest, dresser and bed-frame with a headboard, costing about $1600.

The family says they were given no choice but to sue after the company agreed to pay to remove the furniture, and to exterminate their room.

But that apparently never happened.

Their lawyer was Kevin Siegel.

You can read the full article or watch the video of Jessica Borg’s news report from WPVI Philadelphia here.

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1 parakeets July 10, 2008 at 12:08 pm

I had always heard the warning about not bringing used furniture in and not dumpster diving, but this concerns me because it was apparently brand new furniture. I wonder if the furniture had been previously delivered to a customer who returned it?

I’m also surprised about the amount of the award since it seems smaller than other bedbug lawsuits I’ve heard. Maybe it is better to have successful suits about bedbugs where claimants win $50,000 than suits for $1 million where claimants lose. I’m sure businesses will be able to write the loss off or get some type of umbrella insurance, but what is the average consumer supposed to do?

2 nobugsonme July 10, 2008 at 3:41 pm

Yes– lawsuits are a strange thing.

I suspect the delivery truck may have been a problem, as well as the warehouse, or the specific items returned from an infested home.

If it’s the truck or the warehouse, then hopefully they’ve taken steps; this could affect many more people.

3 nobugsonme July 11, 2008 at 12:47 am

More from the Philadelphia Daily News Thursday:

Huynh, a former employee of Dietz & Watson in Philadelphia, and Nguyen said that JC Penney didn’t believe them when they called the store to report the infestation.

When a repairman finally came a month later, he found bedbugs all over the room: in the joints between the furniture, in the screw holes, and the mattress. He also noted in his report that “blood oozed out” when the bugs were “squished.”

The retailer promised to send a truck out to help the couple move the furniture, but instead offered them $100 “so we could pay our friends to move it,” Huynh said. They never sent the truck or the money, Huynh added.

I love how the response from the store is to offer to send a truck to collect the bed bug-infested furniture. I am glad they forgot to do so — those bed bugs could easily have infested the truck, the employees driving it, and other customers whose items were later carried in it.

Every retailer needs to consult professionals and devise a bed bug plan, to know what to do in these circumstances to avoid spreading bed bugs further.

But it gets worse:

Huynh, who lived in a refugee camp in Malaysia after escaping South Vietnam in 1975, could handle the bugs but was concerned about his kids.

“They were just so scared,” he said. “They would never come near our room.”

[Attorney Kevin] Siegel filed a lawsuit in November 2006, and the couple was initially awarded $35,000 in arbitration. But JC Penney appealed that decision and offered $7,500 instead, Siegel said.

“Basically from day one, they were giving these people the middle finger,” he said yesterday. “This was a real David versus Goliath case.”

4 nobugsonme July 11, 2008 at 9:40 am
5 MattNixon July 17, 2008 at 8:20 pm

From someone that works in the Pest Management industry I would be very interested in what was found in the warehouse or delivery vehicle in this situation. New furniture should not be infested with bed bugs. In order to survive bed bugs need a blood meal and usually only hang out in the areas where they can readily find this blood meal. Living on a bed in a warehouse is an unlikely place for this to happen, plus the bead in the warehouse is usually wrapped in plastic. My money would be on the delivery truck or the bugs actually coming from a different source totally independent of JC Penny.

6 nobugsonme July 17, 2008 at 10:00 pm

Hi MattNixon,

This information may well be lost to time.

I think the most likely scenarios, if the set was indeed infested, is either:

1–Set was returned to J C Penney by a previous customer, or

2–Set was delivered in a truck that carried infested items.

#2 is known to happen where companies take away used mattresses and box springs after delivering new ones.

A great many stores boast of this “service.” Some may drag that stuff to the curb, but many will cart the used items away, and in doing so, expose the truck and any new contents it may contain (or later contain).

If I were defending J C Penney in this case, I probably would have sought to prove that #1 is not true (surely there are records?) and that also #2 is against policy (if indeed that is so).

I assume they would have used such defenses if they could, but I’m not a lawyer.

Also, it is not very likely that a bedroom set would be infested with bed bugs if it had never been in someone’s home or in a truck that contained bed bugs or bed bug-infested items at some point.

But it is not entirely impossible.

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