Officials say Detroit courtroom bed bug evacuation was “false alarm”

by nobugsonme on August 31, 2012 · 4 comments

in bed bugs, bed bugs in courtrooms and courthouses, bed bugs in the media, detroit, michigan

Last week, a bailiff in a Detroit courtroom believed he saw bed bugs crawling on a court visitor’s body, and the court was evacuated (see this story for more).

That could have been a false alarm — there are all kinds of bugs that might be crawling on someone sitting in a courtroom, which could be mistaken for bed bugs.

But a key point of the story, was that the man’s daughter told reporters her father currently had bed bugs at home (this was reported by the Detroit News, among others).

That fact made the bailiff’s identification of the bugs as bed bugs seem quite plausible.

And then, one day after the incident in question, the media enthusiastically reported that the courtroom had been declared bed bug-free by a pest control operator with a canine scent detection team.

My interpretation, assuming the inspection was accurate, is that the bedbugs did not get left behind when the court was evacuated.

Lucky break, right?

Oddly enough, the Associated Press noted in “Detroit courtroom opens after bedbug false alarm” that the court put out a press release calling the evacuation a “false alarm.”

“False alarm” implies no bed bugs were present on the day of the evacuation.

Where’s the evidence for that?

How do you make the leap from “there seem to be no bed bugs here right now” to “there were no bed bugs on a man in the courtroom yesterday”?

Besides the AP, other media outlets also jumped on the “false alarm” bandwagon.

The Huffington Post’s article title claimed this “was likely a false alarm.”

ClickOnDetroit titled its story, “36th District Court in Detroit says there was never any bedbugs in courtroom,” noting:

A spokeswoman for the court on Friday said a pest control vendor had been called in to investigate and found no evidence of bedbugs.

Court resumed normally.

A pest-control company sprays the building each quarter. Court officials say a dog also is used to sniff out bedbugs.

Hmm.  Well if a dog said you have no bed bugs, then…

Oh wait: they’re not 100% accurate!

Whether there were bed bugs in the courtroom the day after the evacuation, or not, this is not a “false alarm,” unless it can be proven the bailiff was mistaken in identifying the bugs as bed bugs in the first place.

It seems very likely, since the man does have bed bugs at home, that there were bed bugs in the courtroom, at least before the evacuation occurred.

And let’s be honest, iIf you saw any kind of bugs crawling on someone inside a building, you’d want to look into it, rather than sit calmly in a nearby chair.

Given the circumstances,Judge Cylenthia LaToye Miller made the right choice.

The Judge herself apparently posted a clarification of the day’s events to her Facebook page, according to the State Bar of Michigan (SBM) blog, and among the points noted by the Judge were:

  1. The person who had the bed bugs was NOT a witness in the case and was NOT accompanying a witness.
  2. The person’s daughter admitted he had bed bugs “all over the house.”
  3. The court Bailiff Tony Kellum informed me and my Clerk Lyn Cain that after he removed the man from the courtroom, he spoke to him in the hall and the man had acted as if it was no big deal that he had bed bugs.
  4. The other court Bailiff Al Baylor asked the people in the front row to leave the courtroom after Bailiff Tony Kellum informed him about his conversation with the man.
  5. Tony Kellum also stated that the man was in the men’s bathroom, “scratching and knocking things off of him.”
  6. Audience members stated that they saw a bug “crawling down the bench” in the courtroom.

That description makes it sound like there were bed bugs in the courtroom, at least while this visitor was present.

I hope the gentleman in question is getting some kind of assistance.  As I said in the other article on this story, no one should have to live with a problem like bed bugs.

And I hope the court officials rethink their “false alarm” line.  As the Judge also said on her Facebook page, according to SBM,

The fact that no bed bugs were found in the courtroom is a blessing and per the official who contacted me from the Detroit Health & Wellness Promotion Department, we “dodged a bullet.”

Dodging a bullet: that’s not the same as a false alarm, not at all.

1 Rwhit August 31, 2012 at 3:51 am

That must be one major infestation if they were crawling all over him in public like that. I know the dogs arent alway accurate but wouldn’t it take a little while for them to be detected anyway (give them time to harbour and lay eggs)?

2 Jo E. September 10, 2012 at 11:33 am

We have lived in our Los Angeles first-floor two bedroom apartment for four years. The infestations we’ve had, starting with least disgusting:

crickets, flies, maggots, cockroaches, bed bugs.

I am on the lease but do not contribute to rent (I haven’t worked in two years). We (my boyfriend and I) have had the bed bug SYMPTOMS (bites, itchiness, and I have had a specific allergic reaction that mocks a sinus infestion / flu) since February, 2012. We had never had bed bugs before and thought that maybe we were allergic to our cats until one night before Labor Day, my boyfriend pulled back the covers and we discovered dozens of them scattering back into the creases of the mattress and sheets.


So gross.

I have spent about $1,000 going from doctor to doctor, taking allergy skin tests, taking antibiotics, taking STEROIDS for a sinus infection that I didn’t have. I have lost SO MUCH income to weeks of illness where I was bed-ridden with fatigue and sickess IN THE SAME BED as the vermin that caused it, making it worse.

Can I sue my landlord for the medical cost and income-related losses?

My boyfriend, who has a real job, is not interested, as the landlord already said he would replace the mattress, which was the only thing my boyfriend wanted replaced. I want compensated for the year of my life that I’ve lost. Does anyone know if this is doable?

I have NO money to retain a lawyer and I have been unable to find a community member or outreach program that was interested in helping me with my apartment disputes, so I don’t know that this would be any different… but I am still suffering from getting better, I’m probably completely anemic, and if I had the ability to pay for tests and get a diagnosis on anemia, I would. But I’m tapped out of money. Because I was sick with BED BUGS all year and didn’t know it.

Los Angeles is a filthy town. I recommend never stepping foot in it if you have the chance not to. The people are worse than the bugs, if that tells you anything.

Thanks for any info.


3 nobugsonme September 22, 2012 at 1:53 am

Hi Jo,
Sorry for your troubles and for the delay in responding.

I am not a lawyer and it sounds like you need legal advice. If you cannot afford a lawyer, try contacting the resources listed in, which helps people on low or moderate incomes in various states including yours find a legal aid service.

Actually many tenants’ organizations can give good advice on local laws. Calling one may also be helpful in terms of determining your rights.

4 CarpathianPeasant September 23, 2012 at 10:47 am

Thanks for the link. Didn’t know legal stuff was so well organized now.

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