Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Couple sues over bedbugs at hotel

Published in the Current and the American Journal

Richard and Lyn Alleborn of Wayne, Maine, have sued the owners of the South Portland AmeriSuites hotel, claiming that bedbugs ruined their Christmas shopping trip.

It is an incident state health inspectors say has never happened before in Maine.

The Alleborns checked into the hotel on Dec. 21, 2002. And just hours later, they fled the hotel, covered in bites from bedbugs.

Lyn Alleborn had won a stay at the hotel as a prize for doing good work with her employer, State Farm, according to their lawyer, Tracie Adamson.

The suit, filed in Kennebec County Superior Court, names Ocean Properties of Portsmouth, N.H. AmeriSuites immediately addressed and corrected the problem, according to the state.

According to the lawsuit, Richard Alleborn began to itch over much of his body shortly after he got into bed in his room at the AmeriSuites. His wife then saw a bug on her and pinched it on the bedding, causing the blood-engorged pest to burst in a spray of blood on the sheets, the lawsuit says.

“He was bitten all up his legs,” Adamson said. “She had many bites over her hands and wrists,” as well as elsewhere on her body. “Mrs. Alleborn was literally vomiting, she was so horrified,” Adamson said. Some of her bites started to scar as they healed.

The suit seeks payment for medical expenses as well as compensatory damages. “The medical payments are minimal,” Adamson said.

Even Adamson didn’t know that bedbugs actually existed until she heard the Alleborns’ story. Bedbugs normally hide in mattresses and in the walls, but are drawn out by body heat, Adamson said. “They actually suck your blood,” she said.

After the Alleborns left, the hotel staff disposed of the bedding, mattress and box spring and fumigated the entire room, according to a state Bureau of Health report obtained by the American Journal.

The company that conducted the fumigation agreed with hotel staff that “bed bugs were present,” in what a state inspector called an “infestation.”

No adjacent rooms were affected, and the room had been vacant for 20 days before the Alleborns checked in, the report says. By the time the state received a complaint from Lyn Alleborn, on Jan. 7, the problem had been rectified, and an exterminator had verified that multiple insecticide treatments had killed all of the insects, according to the report.

The report says “the hotel has taken both immediate and appropriate actions to remedy the situation.”

After reviewing state health inspection records, “we cannot recall another incident like this,” said Newell Augur, a spokesman for the Department of Human Services.

A duty manager at AmeriSuites said the hotel had done “more than the state asked” to fix the problem, and referred calls to the hotel’s general manager, Michael Siemion, who did not return several phone calls before the American Journal’s deadline.

Adamson plans to ask for a jury trial in the case. She doesn’t expect it to go before a court for at least a year.