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Bedbug lawsuit bites motel owners

CHICAGO, Illinois Federal appeals court judge Richard Posner upheld a Cook County jury's $372,000 punitive damages tag against Motel 6 in a lawsuit brought by packaging tradeshow visitors Burl and Desiree Mathias, who found their downtown Chicago motel room on East Ontario Street (the motel is now a Red Roof Inn under the same owners) was overrun with bedbugs, the Chicago Tribune reported Nov. 25, 2003.

According to the newspaper; the motel had been renting infested rooms for months; Posner concluded that the plaintiffs, who received $5,000 each for pain and treatment of the bug bites, were each entitled to the jury's award of roughly 37 times that, as motel management rejected offers to exterminate for only $500, even when the problem reached "farcical proportions."

In an important decision, Posner reasoned that the award should be large enough to punish the wrongdoer and also to justify a lawsuit, ensuring a legal climate for justice, the newspaper reported.

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