Should Retailers Fear Bed Bug Lawsuits?

Reports of bed bug infestations at any retail establishment are certainly not good news for any business.  In the summer months of 2010, many New York City retailers were under siege by the bloodsucking pests.  It seemed as one news story cooled about a NYC retailer with a bed bug infestation, another huge announcement hit the airwaves that the nasty nibblers had struck an upscale retail establishment.  Were last summer’s attack of the NYC bed bugs media driven or reality?  Definitely both!

Some retail customers are seeking compensation for their encounters with bed bugs at retail establishments.  Similar to lawsuits against hotels, motels, and rental property owners, customers are seeking restitution for bites, itchiness, anxiety, and depression.  Some lawsuits are filed seeking reimbursement for damaged furniture, mattresses, and clothing that had to be discarded because bed bugs allegedly infested people’s homes.

Because of the known behavioral patterns of bed bugs, claimants could potentially have a difficult time proving the exact location that a bed bug was picked up at.  Unless a particular item that was purchased had visible signs of a bed bug infestation, it is unlikely that anyone would be able to prove at a later point in time that bed bugs came from a specific store.

Bed bug lawsuits are still relatively new to the judicial system in every state.  Should retailers fear an onslaught of potential bed bug lawsuits if bed bugs are found in their store?  Maybe not, but the stigma attached to having a bed bug infestation can drive customers away.  It will be interesting to see what the courts decide going forward.

All businesses should develop protocol for when they discover a bed bug infestation so they can minimize the negative media impact and mitigate their damages with customers.  Engaging the services of a licensed pest control professional that provides expert bed bug eradication services is an important step in managing the problem.