Elderly and disabled residents of two buildings in Des Moines which are infested with bed bugs and other pests have filed a class-action lawsuit against their landlord.
According to The Des Moines Register, the lawsuit
. . . filed this week in Polk County District Court alleges that more than 250 people have suffered “unconscionable and substandard living conditions” at Ligutti Tower and Elsie Mason Manor and that management of the apartment buildings has responded with only minimal efforts to kill the bugs.
The case covers anyone who has lived with bed bugs, cockroaches, or rodents in Elsie Mason Manor or Ligutti Tower from 2007 to the present. It is one of the first suits filed under Iowa’s new consumer protection law.
The plaintiffs seek immediate treatment of the buildings, and they also want the landlord to be forced to disclose the bug problems to prospective tenants before renting. They will seek as much as $7.4 million, “in reimbursement for pain and suffering, rent overcharges and replacement of infested belongings.”
Jeff Lipman, a lawyer for the 20 elderly tenants, said the lawsuit was brought under the consumer protection law because “this is one of the few statutes that give the court the ability for immediate relief.”
In other words, a judge could order immediate fumigation but allow lawyers more time to argue about financial damages, Lipman said. Documents say Ligutti and Elsie Mason residents continue to be exposed to the bedbugs and face “extreme scarring, discomfort and sleep deprivation” if more aggressive steps are not taken.
But tenants of these buildings don’t always wait for legal channels in order to seek justice, and have at times taken matters into their own hands:
According to the documents, at least one frustrated woman, moved out – but not before she “collected a glass container of bedbugs and threw them at [building manager Frank] Spoerl.”
This is not the only bed bug class action lawsuit I’ve heard of (here’s one against Chicago’s Presidential Towers in 2007), but it may be the largest so far.
Update (3/19): the landlord is now investigating having thermal treatments done on the buildings as early as the end of next week, according to the Des Moines Register.
Update (1/19/2011): Almost a year later, the case still has not been formally certified as a class action by the judge. The infested units underwent thermal remediation, but the entire building is not bed bug free at this time, according to an article yesterday in the Des Moines Register. (That raises the question as to whether (a) some infested units were not detected, and so not treated, (b) someone has brought bed bugs back into the building, or (c) one or more treatments was not effective.)