Some of our most popular blogs have been authored by Jeffrey M. Lipman, Attorney-At-Law and Polk County Magistrate Judge. The Lipman Law Firm practice handles consumer class action litigation, specializing in class action bed bug litigation. Jeff Lipman is a frequent speaker throughout the United States, including the National Pest Management Association and Entomological Society of America.
Lipman’s blogs offer a legal perspective for hotels on the problems surrounding bed bugs. In fact, his posts have been so popular that we have decided to put together a ‘Best of Lipman Legal Series’ offering readers a brief synopsis of legal advice on bed bugs for your quick use and reference.
The following is a collection of Lipman’s legal advice. To read the article in its entirety, simply click on the title.
The mere existence of a bed bug should, in most cases, not be enough to impose liability. That is, if the hotel property implements reasonable inspection and repair protocols including preventative measures. And, only then, has it honored its duty of care. The extent to which a hotel property must implement both aggressive measures will be dictated by the nature or high risk for bed bugs the property is at. Reactive based measures alone, however implemented, for effective bed bug management and control is an ancient and ineffective way of dealing with bed bugs in hotels and will assuredly create legal peril for hotel property owners. Early detection and prevention through both inspection and protection are essential elements of a hotel property’s duty and best practices to reduce their liability.
Employee education and developing a documentation system that is both comprehensive and easy to employ is the best way to prove a hotel has undergone due diligence when it comes to bed bugs. The hotel’s PMP will be best suited to conduct the education and develop the reporting system.
Understanding the role of encasements in the world of IPM and their limitations is important. The encasement kills and exterminates absolutely nothing. The PMP has a duty to educate their customer on the difference between asset protection and human protection. A bed bug that hides in the headboard, footboard, carpet, behind the molding or couch will still be able to have the same access to its host with or without an encasement. The legal implication of relying on them as a “stand alone” or primary preventive measure will surely land the Hotel in legal turmoil.
Most importantly, Hotels should implement comprehensive preventive strategies to avert the commonplace introduction of bed bugs into their facilities from developing into an established infestation. In addition, there must be standard operating procedures in place that include detailed documentation from bed bug discovery through remediation and follow-up, including actions taken by both staff and pest management professional. These SOPs should advise on proper communication and compensation for affected guests to reduce the risk of lawsuits including class action suit activity.
Hotels are more vulnerable to bed bug related claims because of an increasing consumer awareness of bed bugs and claims being made on television, radio, newspaper and social media. Bed bug litigation appears to be the “new frontier” for injury cases. Hoteliers can no longer afford to read from the same ‘old playbook’ as research has resulted in the development of new strategies that are highly effective. More so, hoteliers are ultimately responsible for the bed bug activity in their facility. While their contracted pest manager is an excellent source of information, hoteliers are challenged today to perform their own due diligence. To protect against such legal actions, hotels should implement comprehensive preventive strategies to avert the commonplace introduction of bed bugs into their facilities from developing into an established infestation. An essential component of this strategy is that hotel management implement aggressive inspection-based protocols. These protocols must include documentation systems that show compliance and an immediate action plan to deal with a suspected bed bug event. The mere introduction of a bed bug does not give rise to liability. In fact, when housekeeping finds evidence of a bed bug, the Hotel should reward that person as they really received a real gift – the gift of time to prevent the introduction from evolving into an infestation!!! One bed bug “a case will not make.” An infestation can be financially devastating.