The Airport Hilton, Palm Beach. The Marriott Key Largo. The Clevelander Miami Beach. The Ocean Manor Resort Fort Lauderdale. The Embassy Suites in Boca.
These are only a few of the South Florida hotels and guesthouses riddled with bedbugs, according to the bedbugregistry.com, a site devoted to tracking the evil critters that get into bedding and clothing, a class of insect well-adapted to travel back home with tourists by stowing away in their suitcases.
They're hell to get rid of once you've got them. But Lauderdale personal injury attorney Howard Citron says once bitten, you don't have to suffer in silence.
Citron says that he's handling four bedbug-related cases currently and that the number of such cases has risen dramatically in the past year.
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"It's become a significant problem here in South Florida," Citron says. "We're seeing cases that involve not only hotels and motels but also rental furniture companies, where they've kept furniture stocked in warehouses. People rent the furniture, and suddenly they're getting bitten all over their bodies." Tourists come in for a golf date and leave with welts. Families congregating in local hotels for weddings end up with more to cry about than how beautiful the bride looks.
"We have clients where they have bites all up and down their trunks, on their back, on their genitals. One client was bitten more than 250 times," Citron says. "It's not only painful but it can leave permanent pigment scarring."
Bedbugs are little drilling machines. These bloodsuckers pierce the skin and insert two mini tubes -- one to pump in anticoagulants and anaesthetics, another to draw blood out. Sex isn't much fun either: They mate by a process called "traumatic insemination." Males pierce the female's body cavity with their "hypodermic genitalia." [For more bedbug-related lore, and what may be a world record as longest Wikipedia entry ever compiled, click here].
Citron says liability in bedbug cases varies. He's seen some victims awarded upward of $150,000, but he thinks the most common awards range from $25,000 to $30 000, mostly to recompense pain and suffering. "These are good cases," Citron says, "They're not all heavy home runs, but they have good jury appeal."