A Maryland jury awarded 69-year-old Faika Shaaban $800,000 this week when they determined that her landlord had not cleared up an existing bed bug infestation before renting the apartment to Shaaban in September 2011.
Annapolis records proved that the defendant, landlord Cornelius J. Barrett and West Street Partnership, had been notified of bed bugs and had taken steps in August 2011 to address the infestation. But the pest problem was not resolved by the time Shaaban moved in.
Shaaban suffered hundreds of bites, lesions and scars from the insects, reports The Baltimore Sun. Of the award, $650,000 was for punitive damages, more than she was seeking; the remaining $150,000 was for compensation for her belongings, all of which were lost.
The record award brings attention to an uptick in bed bug lawsuits nationwide. And it demonstrates the frustration of jurors about the insects and the way landlords are responding to known infestation, said Shaaban's attorney, Daniel W. Whitney of Towson.
"She lost practically everything due to this," Whitney said. It was the jury's "opportunity to send a message to the community, to landlords, that you must abate it."
Meanwhile, landlords are trying to shift the burden to tenants with lease wording that says if a bed bug infestation occurs after the lessee has moved in, the landlord is not responsible for extermination.
Ben Frederick, president of the Property Owners Association of Greater Baltimore, notes that a landlord doesn't put bedbugs in a unit, yet "the landlord is being faced with the burden of fixing this problem.”
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