Case details

Plaintiffs: Infestation not timely addressed, resulting in injuries





Result type

Not present

anxiety, emotional distress, insomnia, mental, psychological
In July 2012, plaintiff Jorge Maravilla Jr., 3, was discovered to have small insect bite marks on him while he lived in an apartment with his father, plaintiff Jorge Maravilla, 42, a painter; his mother, plaintiff Lilliana Martinez, 33, a homemaker; and his sister, plaintiff Juanita Maravilla, 3 months. His parents subsequently brought Jorge Jr. to an emergency room, where an E.R. doctor told them to look for insects in their apartment, which was in an apartment complex owned by Amusement Six Apartments LLC and located at 10131 Buford Ave., in Inglewood. After searching for a couple of days, the Maravilla family claimed they found bedbugs. They also claimed that upon their discovery, they reported the bedbugs to Amusement Six, but that the complex owner failed to timely address the problem. Lilliana Martinez; her husband, Jorge Maravilla; and their two children sued Amusement Six Apartments LLC. The matter proceeded to trial and, in July 2017, the jury awarded the Maravillas $3,500 for breach of implied warranty of habitability. According to defense counsel, the plaintiffs’ breach of contact claim was found non-actionable by the jury, allegedly due to the plaintiffs’ failure to comply with the contract’s terms, and the jury was unable to agree as to whether there was substantial causation for the negligence and nuisance counts. Accordingly, those claims were addressed at a re-trial. During the March 2018 re-trial, the Maravillas claimed that they entered into a standard residential rental agreement with Amusement Six in September 2010 and that they began to experience rashes not long after moving in. They also claimed that once they discovered the bite marks on Jorge Jr. and found bedbugs in their apartment in July 2012, they immediate reported the infestation to the building owner, Amusement Six. However, they alleged that despite their persistent complaints about the bedbugs, Amusement Six responded ineffectively by waiting nine days to schedule pest control. Maravilla and Martinez claimed that the treatment was ineffective and that the problems continued. They also claimed that the pest control operator left their apartment full of chemicals over the furniture and carpeting and that Amusement Six should have followed up with the pest control operator immediately. In addition, they claimed that their carpet should have been replaced, as it was approved by management shortly after the first treatment, but that, instead, it took management three months to replace it. The plaintiffs’ entomology expert opined that management did not respond timely or follow up with the subject tenants appropriately. Defense counsel contended that only the Maravilla/Martinez apartment was affected and that no other area of the complex had bedbugs during the Maravilla family’s four year tenancy. Counsel also contended that the plaintiffs only provided notice on July 17, 2012 and again on Oct. 3, 2012. Counsel further contended that between the time of the two notices, the plaintiffs resigned a one-year lease extension in September 2012 and that no other notice of the alleged need for pest control was provided by the plaintiffs until October 2012. Thus, defense counsel argued that Amusement Six had no reason to believe the pest control treatment was ineffective in the interim and that signing an extension was inconsistent with the actions of people who allegedly had bedbugs in their apartment for two months. Counsel also argued that there was no evidence of live bedbugs in the apartment after July 2012, other than the plaintiffs’ testimony, and that the Maravilla family only sued after they moved out. Defense counsel contended that Amusement Six responded quickly and efficiently to the plaintiffs’ complaints and that pest control treatment occurred within nine days of each report by the plaintiffs. Counsel also contended that documentary evidence showed that on the second occasion that bedbugs were reported, treatment had already been scheduled for Oct. 4, 2012. Defense counsel added that after the second treatment, no further complaints of bedbugs were raised during the plaintiffs remaining 18-month tenancy at the complex. Defense counsel further contended that the plaintiffs failed to follow the requirements of the lease by providing notice either in writing (other than on Oct. 3, 2012) or by using Amusement Six’s 24-hour maintenance hotline. Thus, counsel argued that Amusement Six acted as quickly and efficiently as possible and that any delay in treatment was due to difficulty in coordinating a time that both the plaintiffs and the pest control treatment provider were available for treatment. Counsel further argued that such coordination was required because the plaintiffs would allegedly not permit entry into their apartment when they were not home. In addition, defense counsel argued that the chemical used on the carpet was non-hazardous. Specifically, counsel contended that the chemical left in the apartment was diatomaceous earth, which is a chemical that it generally recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration and is used in a large number of consumer products. Thus, defense counsel argued that there was no requirement to change a carpet that is stained with non-hazardous chemicals and that the carpet was voluntarily upgraded to laminate flooring as an accommodation to the plaintiffs., The plaintiffs claimed that the bedbugs were in their beds, furniture, and clothing. They also claimed that the bedbugs latched onto them while they slept and sucked their blood until they were gorged. Thus, they claimed they suffered from numerous bites and rashes, which caused them pain, discomfort, annoyance, sleeplessness, inconvenience, humiliation, anxiety, scarring and severe emotional distress. The youngest plaintiff, Juanita, was just 3 months old at the time. Jorge Jr., who was 3 years old at the time, suffered the most bites. His parents claimed that Jorge Jr. was massacred by the bedbugs, leaving him with scarring and hyperpigmentation. In addition, Mr. Maravilla claimed that he had problems going to work because of his fear of being ostracized as a result of the incidents. The Maravilla family ultimately moved out of the complex in 2014. According to defense counsel, at the March 2018 trial, plaintiffs’ counsel asked the jury to award the Maravilla family approximately $6.6 million in total damages. Defense counsel disputed the seriousness of the plaintiffs’ alleged and damages, noting that the plaintiffs only made vague allegations of shame, humiliation, anxiety, and emotional distress, as none of them were ever seen or evaluated by a mental health professional. Counsel also noted that while Mr. Maravilla alleged that he told a co-worker about the alleged bedbugs, he testified that he changed jobs to work directly for a client of his former employer. Defense counsel further argued that Martinez acted improperly by applying to Jorge Jr. a non-FDA approved medication, which Martinez and her husband obtained from Mexico. In addition, the defense’s dermatology expert opined that the non-FDA approved medication could have resulted in Jorge Jr.’s skin condition.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Alhambra, CA

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