An Arkansas family that complained of bedbug bites while staying at a Rancho Cucamonga hotel has been awarded $546,000, which their lawyer said is the biggest judgment ever in a bedbug-related case.
A San Bernardino County Superior Court jury unanimously awarded the damages Monday for medical bills and emotional distress from bites and rashes that Martha, Alex and Marcus McKindra said they suffered during a 2013 stay at the Hilton Garden Inn Ontario/Rancho Cucamonga.
"I'm hopeful this verdict will send a message throughout the industry to make sure adequate policies, procedures and protocol are in place so that other people are not needlessly endangered," said Brian Virag, the attorney representing the family.
A man who described himself as the general manager of the Hilton Garden Inn but refused to give his name declined to comment, saying he wasn't in charge of the hotel when the 2013 incident occurred. A media relations representative for the hotel franchise firm, Hilton Worldwide, said Thursday that the company would have no comment because it isn't a party to the lawsuit. Hilton Worldwide doesn't own or operate the Hilton Garden Inn, which is a franchise property, he said.
Alex McKindra, 63, a retired Army colonel, and his wife, Martha, 63, checked into the hotel in March 2013 with their son, Marcus, 34, Virag said. The family was in the area to deliver a car to Marcus, who was serving in the reserves at Vandenberg Air Force Base, near Lompoc, he said.
Only a few hours after going to bed, the family members awoke with bites and rashes and demanded another room, Virag said. The hotel was fully booked, so the family was forced to move to another hotel, he said.
The lawsuit said the manager knew of the bedbugs in the room but "failed to disclose, inspect or warn plaintiffs of the presence of these filthy infestations at the premises."
Virag, an Encino attorney who calls himself the "preeminent authority on bedbug litigation," said his biggest bedbug case before the McKindra case was for $463,000 for a client who was attacked by bedbugs in an apartment.
Virag said the problem is widespread in hotels. "It's inevitable when you have a revolving door of people in a room," he said.
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2:50 p.m.: This article was updated with a statement from Hilton Worldwide.