This seems to be the week for bed bug lawsuits.
The Tennesseean reports that Evangela Cowan of Nashville is suing Rent-a-Center, claiming the furniture she rented (including a mattress) gave her bed bugs.
She is suing for $575,000. The Tennesseean also reports on the company’s response:
Xavier Dominicis, a Rent-A-Center spokesman, said he could not comment about Cowan’s suit, but did agree to speak about the company’s sanitation practices regarding returned merchandise.
“We use a number of agents to sanitize the equipment,” Dominicis said. “The company follows state guidelines. We inspect everything before it goes out and when it comes back.”
The spokesman said bedbugs are a rarity.
“Occasionally, we’ll get a bedbug here and there and we’ll aid the customer when needed,” Dominicis said.
But Cowan says Rent-A-Center has never attempted to help.
“I explained the situation to them,” she said. “And, they just looked at me. They were completely unconcerned. I actually left in tears.”
I would very much like to know more about the protocols used to sanitize furniture returned to Rent-a-Center. First, visual inspections are very difficult — even for those trained to find bed bugs and patient enough to do lengthy searches. Second, the statement “we use a number of agents to sanitize the equipment” suggests to my mind the use of sprays.
My understanding of bed bug treatment is that no spray can render an item bed bug-free with 100% reliability — far from it, in fact. I am also not aware of Tennessee’s guidelines on this matter, but unless they require all previously rented items to be treated using thermal methods or sulfuryl fluoride (Vikane) gas, or frozen for several days at low temperatures, the treatment is unlikely to guarantee bed bugs are not present.
It is not true that bed bugs are a rarity in our society, and it stands to reason they’re becoming more common among renters of furniture, just as they are in the population at large. Furniture rental companies need to develop foolproof methods of ensuring all rented items are bed bug-free.
The full article is no longer available from the site, but you can find an abstract here.