An Arkansas woman has filed a class action lawsuit against the Arizona Biltmore Hotel and Resort, a Hilton Waldorf Astoria luxury property that is known for its charm and has been a popular hotspot and summer getaway here in the Valley.
In the lawsuit, Christine Bingaman claims that the hotel that promises a world-class experience was anything but that for her. She stayed on the property for four nights in May 2018.
The lawsuit states on her first night she experienced an itchy sensation all over her legs. On her second night, Bingaman says she saw a bug run across the sheets in her room. She was able to catch the bug and put it in a plastic bag and looked up pictures of bed bugs. She took the bug over to hotel staff and was immediately transferred to another room on the property.
Bingaman told staff she worried about her personal belongings, as she knew bedbugs were known to be "hitchhikers" that latched on to clothing and luggage and could travel with you.
The lawsuit states Bingaman met with several managers at the hotel who confirmed the bug had been a bedbug and acknowledged her concerns about her personal property.
The lawsuit states Bingaman was told to leave behind any personal property she did not feel comfortable taking back home with her, and that she would be compensated for it. The lawsuit states Bingaman was never compensated for that property.
Now, she is suing the hotel for false advertising, fraud, and emotional distress among other things.
The lawsuit states hotel staff are not properly trained to identify bed bugs and treat them. The lawyers included attachments of several reviews posted on the web, written from prior customers who had stayed at the Biltmore and found bed bugs in their rooms as well. The reviews dated back to 2016.
ABC15 reached out to pest control experts to get their take on the situation.
Rick Cooper, the Senior Director of Services for Terminix, said there was a big misconception that bedbugs were only found in dirty, unhygienic areas.
"There is nothing further from the truth; the reality is that bed bugs can affect anyone. They can be in the finest of hotels and the most expensive of homes," said Cooper.
Cooper added that bedbugs typically went where people so it was not uncommon to find bed bugs in most areas frequented by the public.
Anthony Deslo, the owner of Phoenix Bed Bug Expert, said finding and treating bedbugs were typically jobs for the experts. Many companies used trained bed bug dogs to detect the blood-sucking pests as they could be hard to find. He added that he would not be surprised to hear that housekeeping staff at the hotel did not find any bedbugs as they changed sheets.
"In some cases, you would have to take the headboard off, which is usually screwed to the wall. You have to lift it up with two guys on each side as well as take all the sheets off and check the whole perimeter of the top seam and bottom as well as the box spring," said Deslo.
He also agreed that the type of property did not make a difference when it came to this non-discriminating pest that just wanted to latch on to a human host to feed.
"It doesn't matter if its a five-star hotel or Super 8 or Motel 6. It is just a matter of a lot of traffic and someone coming in contact with it along with their travels," added Deslo.
The lawsuit claimed that the resort property was deceiving guests who felt they were in a top-notch, world-class property, by not notifying them of bedbug issues as they came up.
The lawsuit seeks monetary compensation to be determined by a jury, along with the action on the resort property's part, outlining aggressive steps they planned to take to address the problem.
A spokeswoman with the Arizona Biltmore resort sent us this statement.
"We are not able to comment on a pending litigation. Arizona Biltmore takes the issue of bed bugs very seriously as the safety and comfort of our guests and staff are of paramount importance. The hotel employs a comprehensive detection program which maintains the highest levels of vigilance."
ABC15 reached out to the resort again to ask them to outline the procedures they have in place to address bed bugs. A spokeswoman stated:
"Our housekeeping and maintenance departments collaborate with outside specialists to perform regularly scheduled inspections. In the unlikely and unusual event, a guest suspects a problem; the guest is relocated, the area in question is isolated to determine whether a problem exists and, if warranted, the situation will be immediately remedied."
ABC15 has reached out to the lawyers listed on the class action lawsuit; we have yet to hear back from them.