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 TripAdvisor.com, 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 OakPark.com 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 TripAdvisor.com or BedBugRegistry.com (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 OakPark.com), or embedded below.