When the Bed Bugs Bite, Who is Liable?

If you’re going to be visiting Baltimore, New York City, or Chicago anytime soon, you might want to take the old nursery rhyme advice of “don’t let the bedbugs bite” to heart! These cities were among the top ten recently named as the “bedbuggiest” cities by Orkin, a prominent pest control company. Bed bugs aren’t just creepy and gross — when they occur in places like hotels and apartment, they can cause complex liability issues.

Bed Bug Basics

Formally known as cimex lectularius, bed bugs are parasitic insects that feed exclusively on blood. They are often found in hotels, dorms, hospitals, apartment, and other places where people frequently come-and-go. This is because they have the potential to travel on clothes or in suitcases. Bed bugs used to be rare in North America, but international travel has made them a more common “guest” in the United States.

Generally, bed bugs bites are not fatal. While they feast on blood, they do not transmit blood-borne diseases, like HIV or Zika. The bites, though, can be very uncomfortable. They are often swollen and itchy like mosquito bites. If scratched, the bites can become infected, increasing the chances of an infection.

Liability for Insect Bites

When bed bug bites arise from a property owner or landlord’s negligence, the injured party may have a claim. Property owners have a duty to keep visitors and occupants safe, and this should include proper cleaning and maintenance. At a hotel, guests expect and deserve a clean room. An uncleaned room is a negligent breach of duty. In an apartment situation, a landlord must address any infestation complaints, and hire an exterminator if necessary. In these cases, photos of the infestation and records of any complaints serve as evidence of the property owner’s negligence.

Hotel bed bugs were at the center of a 2016 lawsuit against the Atlantis Paradise Resort in the Bahamas. On the last day of her stay at the tropical resort, a Miami woman woke up with hundreds of swollen bites on her body. Upon investigation, she found swarms of bed bugs underneath her mattress. The resort paid for the woman’s hotel stay, but she still sued for damages, saying the hotel’s negligence left her in constant discomfort for three weeks after the incident.

Travel Tips

Hopefully, your next hotel or apartment is infestation-free. To avoid bed bug bites, check the sheets and mattresses of hotel beds right away. If you are suspicious, don’t set down your suitcase or any other items until you confirm an infestation. When you get home from your trip, give all your clothes a good wash. This will ensure that no pesky bugs traveled home with you! By being aware of bed bug red flags — and knowing how to proceed after a bed bug incident — you will sleep much better!


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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