Hotel suing customers who wrote bed bug review on TripAdvisor

by nobugsonme on June 27, 2011 · 4 comments

in bed bug lawsuits, bed bugs, legal aspects of bed bugs

The Carleton Hotel in Oak Park, Illinois is suing a Massachusetts couple who posted a review on stating their room in the hotel had bed bugs, a claim the hotel denies.

The defendants, Michael Gladstone and Liora Braun, stayed in the Carleton Hotel from April 7-10, 2011.   On checking out, they told the manager they had seen bed bugs in the room. The hotel’s maintenance department inspected the next day and reported no signs of bed bugs.  It appears that no pest management professionals were called in to inspect at this point.

Almost a month later, Gladstone contacted the Carleton to notify them that he now had bed bugs in his home, and at this time, the manager ordered Brennan’s Pest Control in to inspect the rooms the family used.  The pest control firm reported no bed bugs or signs were present.  (You can read their report in the Appendix to the lawsuit, below.)

After the hotel manager sent a copy of the PCO’s report to Gladstone, the defendants posted a review on, with the title, “BED BUGS – and they don’t care!” The review claimed that the couple found a bed bug crawling on the husband during their last night in the hotel.

As reports:

The Carleton is adamant that it has no bedbug problem, and is seeking damages of more than $30,000 from Gladstone because of the hotel’s “loss of business and loss of reputation.” Two people clicked on the review as being “helpful,” as of the time the lawsuit was filed, and the hotel wonders how many others the ‘malicious’ post has discouraged from staying there.

“At least two, but possibly thousands, of potential customers have been dissuaded by the review posted by the defendant,” the complaint states. “Nearly every day [the] Carleton hears comments from people who have read the review.”

Many people who encounter (or, in some cases, who think they encounter) bed bugs in hotels post about these experiences in reviews on or (which also accepts reports about bed bugs in rented homes and other kinds of businesses, as well as hotels).

This lawsuit may make people much more cautious about making these kinds of claims in reviews on the internet — whether they’re true or not.

Since many people have difficulty identifying bed bugs, it is inevitable that some claims about bed bugs in hotel reviews are false. Consumers should be cautious against making a claim unless they know it to be true.

On the other hand, many people making legitimate complaints in reviews will not have any kind of hard evidence for their claims.

It seems to be quite common for hotels to respond to TripAdvisor reviews with a rebuttal or explanation. In this case, it seems like the hotel could have disputed this claim in a response with the same evidence they’re taking to court.

This case also raises another question: when a consumer is making a true claim of having spotted bed bugs, what kind of proof do they need to protect themselves in a lawsuit?

You can see the lawsuit Carleton Hotel LLC vs. Michael Gladstone and Liora Braun on Scribd (courtesy of, or embedded below.

Carleton of Oak Park Lawsuit

1 sam bryks June 28, 2011 at 3:48 am

This case may set some standards and precedents. The guests sound very reasonable to me except they didn’t get the actual bed bug for evidence, making their claim based on their word, and as they are not “experts”, they will need to prove that they indeed did identify the bug they saw correctly.
The so-called “inspection” report by the pest control firm is weak. The language of the report “crack and crevice inspection with 8 oz #8” is pretty weak. Eight ounces is not much material to treat three entire hotel rooms. That is about 2.3 ounces per room. Three rooms – 1/2 hour per room of which the time was mainly treatment. They didn’t find any evidence, but the methodology doesn’t exactly sound wonderful. If there were a few hidden bed bugs somewhere, they may very well have “got” them. Had they hired a K9 team and found nothing..that would have been powerful, but the K9 team might have found something.
The guests didn’t actually ask for money at least not reported in the claim though treatment of their home cost them a bundle. The hotel saying that their pest control firm didn’t find any bed bugs does not change the claimant’s experience – but the fact they had no hard evidence does not mean that their report on Trip Advisor was incorrect or not true, or that they were lying.
I hope they get a good lawyer and a good expert witness.
the outcome of this case will be very interesting.
I think the hotel failed in this case. Had they done a proper follow-up instead of a reactive “crack and crevice “inspection” with 8 oz of #8″, and advised the guest of the outcome with regrets, and a refund, they would have saved a regular customer and likely prevented the posting on Trip Advisor. Telling a client, “we did check very carefully and did not find anything, but we are very sorry you found a bug, however, without direct evidence, we can only suggest a refund to you our regular client.” That approach could have saved the day. The details here do not give any hint of what their proactive program includes. If that report by the pest control firm is a measure of the program, doesn’t sound that good to me. This would be the kind of information the guest’s lawyer should be asking or their expert witness should be assessing. Investing in a K9 inspection would have certainly put the hotel in a far better position than literally attacking a customer for complaining. That was certainly the time to use the K9 option. Some professionals claim that a proper detailed inspection of a small hotel room could take more than one hour without any treatment being done. That is why K
As this has been put in the public domain, I comment as a matter of opinion and suggestion on how such cases could be handled far better. I do not represent anyone in this matter but express views on the basis of the posted claims and evidence as my opinion on this case. Other evidence could vary views on this case.
Some professionals advise that inspecting an average hotel room with one or two beds can take more than an hour.That is whyK9 teams are so valuable as they can check a hotel room in less than 10 minutes with high accuracy..

2 nobugsonme June 29, 2011 at 12:54 am

Thanks, Sam, for your comments! Your feedback on the PCO’s report was especially helpful.

The hotel saying that their pest control firm didn’t find any bed bugs does not change the claimant’s experience – but the fact they had no hard evidence does not mean that their report on Trip Advisor was incorrect or not true, or that they were lying.

This is true.

No inspection — whether k9 or careful human — is necessarily 100% accurate.

As always, so much seems to depend on how much the judge knows about bed bugs, and what kinds of expert witnesses testify.

One question: is #8 a flushing agent?

3 atlbedbugs July 13, 2011 at 11:25 am

I stayed at a hotel in ATL last November and found a bed bug a 4:00 am crawling on a pillow. I bagged the bug (in a zip lock bag), took a few photos of my bite marks & the bug. Long story short the hotel compted me my entire stay (3 days/4 nights).

My advise is if you find them in your hotel room…document…document. Even though I had hard evidence…the hotel sent me a report saying nothing had been found…But I had evidence to the contrary.

Be alert folks at all times…

4 Martin Felten July 31, 2011 at 1:26 am

I aver that establishing whether a space is bed bug free beyond a shadow of a doubt
is well nigh impossible. Those affected by bed bugs should know by now that there
is no treatment that can be guaranteed with 100% certitude — sometimes a treatment
works and oftentimes it doesn’t. A pack of dogs isn’t infallible either. Bed bugs are
a very tough customer.

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