Can I Sue a Hotel for Bed Bugs?
With a few exceptions, most hotel visits occur out-of-state. Whether the situation involves a family vacation, a business convention, a gap between flights, or a road trip with friends, the majority of people who book overnight hotel rooms are coming from another part of the country. This leads to an interesting legal question: if a guest is bitten by bed bugs while staying at an out-of-state hotel, do they have any legal recourse upon returning to their home state? Can they sue in a state other than where they were bitten or where they live? How do you know which states have jurisdiction over your case? In this entry, our hotel bed bug attorneys will explain some of the limitations and possibilities which can affect injury plaintiffs in this type of scenario.
Filing Bed Bug Lawsuits in Other Jurisdictions
If you’re worried about where you can assert your legal rights, you can breathe a sigh of relief. You may be able to sue a bed bug infested hotel in a jurisdiction other than where you were bitten and/or where you live, subject to several elements. Three of those key elements are:
- You must abide by the appropriate statute of limitations.
- The state in which you file suit must have jurisdiction over the claim.
- You must have suffered injury and/or damages.
We will discuss the statute of limitations in greater detail in the next section; but for now, let’s take a closer look at what constitutes hotel negligence. Hotels must take all reasonable measures to identify and eliminate health and safety hazards, which is part of their “duty of care” to their guests. In simple terms, negligence means the defendant (i.e. hotel) had a duty to do something, such as provide its guests a clean room; the hotel breached its duty, such as by providing an infested room; and the breach of the duty caused foreseeable injury, such as the guest being bitten by bed bugs.
Negligence can result from both action and inaction. Negligence may involve doing something wrong, such as having a housekeeper attempt to clean an infestation of bed bugs using a can of bug spray instead of hiring a professional pest control company. Negligence can also result from a failure to act, such as failing to conduct periodic safety inspections in accordance with franchisor operating standards and federal, state, or local laws.
The legal concept of negligence is not particular to any single state, but applies nationwide. Out-of-state bed bug lawsuits are more common than you might think, particularly due to the majority of hotels being owned by a handful of holding companies who do business in almost every state.
What is the Statute of Limitations?
Whether civil or criminal, the statute of limitations is crucially important in every legal case. The statute of limitations, sometimes abbreviated to SOL, is a law which limits the amount of time in which plaintiffs have to file a claim in court. In other words, the SOL blocks plaintiffs from suing business entities and individuals after a certain number of years have elapsed. When the SOL runs out of time, it is said to have “expired.”
The SOL is not uniform. On the contrary, the SOL can vary dramatically by (1) the jurisdiction in which it applies, and (2) the type of matter being cited by the underlying claim. Generally, the SOL generally begins counting down from the date the injury occurs. For example, Maryland’s SOL is three years for certain causes of action, while New Jersey’s SOL is two years for certain matters. While some SOLs incidentally happen to be the same, as most range from two to four years, the importance of familiarizing yourself with the SOL applicable to your situation cannot be overstated. Further, SOLs can be subject to certain legal defenses.
How Does a State Have Jurisdiction Over a Claim?
Different states set forth different laws that allow for their state to exercise jurisdiction over certain claims. For example, a Maryland court may have jurisdiction over a bed bug case that happened in California where a California resident was bitten, when the hotel was owned and/or managed by a corporation that has its principle place of business in North Carolina, and has other hotel locations in Maryland.
Another example involves the “principal place of business” of a corporation. For example, Marriott Hotels is headquartered in Maryland. Its national brands include the following:
- JW Marriott
- Renaissance Hotels
- AC Hotels
- Courtyard by Marriott
- Springhill Suites
- Fairfield Inns and Suites
- Residence Inn
- Gaylord Hotels
Any of the above hotels may be sued in Maryland, even if the bites occurred in another state, and the person bitten lives in another different state.
Another example of the “principal place of business” jurisdictional application applies to Choice Hotels. Choice Hotels is a hotel company that franchises over 6,300 hotels. It is headquartered in Maryland. Its national brands include the following:
- Comfort Inn
- Comfort Suites
- Quality Inn
- Sleep Inn
- Cambria Suites
- MainStay Suites
- Econo Lodge
- Rodeway Inn
Any of the above hotels may be sued in Maryland, no matter where the bites occurred or where the person who was bitten lives.
A third example of the “principal place of business” application applies to Wyndham Hotels and Resorts (“Wyndham”). Wyndham is headquartered in New Jersey. Its national brands include the following:
- New Yorker Hotel
- Baymont Inn & Suites
- Days Inn
- Hawthorn Suites
- Howard Johnson’s
- Knights Inn
- Microtel Inn & Suites
- Super 8
- Wingate By Wyndham
- Wyndham Hotels & Resorts
- Wyndham Grand Collection
- Wyndham Garden Hotels
- Tryp by Wyndham
Any of the above hotels may be sued in New Jersey, no matter where the bites occurred or where the person who was bitten lives.
Whitney, LLP’ bed bug attorneys are licensed in Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Washington, D.C. With the use of local attorneys, and based on the corporate structure of the hotel, we can represent clients across the United States.
If you suffered bed bug bites while staying at a hotel anywhere in the U.S., the experienced attorneys of Whitney, LLP can review the jurisdictional options for your potential claim, and may be able to help you recover compensation. To set up a free and confidential case evaluation, call our law offices today at (410) 583-8000.