American Family Awarded $1.6M Settlement After 3-Year-Old Child Scarred by Bed Bugs

A Californian family whose young son was permanently scarred by bed bug bites was awarded almost $1.6 million by a civil jury. According to the family’s legal representative, this was the largest figure ever awarded in the United States to a single family in a bed bug case.

Lilliana Martinez said the bed bug problems started in 2012, shortly after she moved into a unit in Inglewood, California, with her husband and their three-year-old son, Jorge. They soon discovered itchy red spots all over Jorge’s face and body each morning.

Upon taking their son to hospital, he was diagnosed with bed bug bites. The medical practitioner advised the couple to carefully inspect their home for the insects, which they soon discovered throughout the building.

“As soon as I found out, I was horrified, because I had never seen something like that before,” said Martinez.

The couple’s three-month-old daughter was also affected, with bite marks appearing on her back after she slept. Martinez immediately informed the apartment’s management company, Westland Industries, and was instructed to dispose of all furniture, including the infant’s crib. The company then arranged for professionals to fumigate the unit, which coated every room with white powder.

“All we could do is just vacuum a little place on the floor,” said Martinez. “How am I going to lay my newborn baby and my three-year-old right where everything is?” she thought. “But we didn’t have anywhere else to go.”

The entire family of four was forced to sleep on that one small spot on the floor, and for the next four months, the family suffered slum-like living conditions. They continued to endure frequent bed bug bites, and also experienced a severe cockroach infestation. After almost four months, the management company replaced the apartment’s carpets, which finally ended the infestation.

During this period, the family suffered serious emotional distress, sleeplessness, and property damage due to the insects infiltrating their possessions. Jorge endured the worst reaction to the bites, with many permanent scars marking his torso, legs and arms.

The Martinez family remained in the unit for another two years before moving out, after which they proceeded to sue Amusement Six Apartments for breach of contract, breach of warranty of habitability, negligence and emotional distress. On Monday, a civil jury in Alhambra ordered the company to pay the family $1.6 million in damages.

“I really think it’s important to give a voice to those who don’t have a voice or who can’t stand up for justice on their own,” said their lawyer, Brian Virag.

The verdict of the jury was a great relief, according to Martinez, who intends to use the award to eventually pay for costly scar removal treatment for her son.

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