NEW YORK – A London hotel that counts itself among the world's most luxurious and prestigious has been sued by a lawyer who says he and his wife were attacked by bedbugs during a stay there last spring.
Sidney D. Bluming and his wife, Cynthia, are seeking several million dollars in damages from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group Limited in the lawsuit, which was filed last month in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
Bluming, whose clients have included Elizabeth Taylor and Claudia Schiffer, and his wife suffered hundreds of bites that left their skin red, swollen and itchy during a five-day stay at the posh Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park last May, said his lawyer, Michael S. Weinstein.
"People associate bedbugs with more of a lower end class of hotel," Weinstein said. "Clearly, that's not the case here. The Mandarin is as premier and luxurious as any hotel could make themselves out to be."
The bedbugs embedded themselves in the couple's luggage and clothing, traveling back to their Manhattan apartment, where they continued biting the Blumings until the couple fumigated their apartment and discarded or replaced their clothing, bedding, luggage and personal effects, according to the lawsuit.
As the bites worsened each day while they were at the hotel, the Blumings secluded themselves, unaware that the isolation left them for many hours with the source of their torment, the lawsuit said.
It said the couple was humiliated and embarrassed by the unsightly wounds on their skin as they flew home and, for weeks afterward, they were haunted by fear of the bedbugs.
As a result, they woke up in the middle of the night with real or imagined itches that led them to frantically search their bedroom and clothing for the tiny insects, the lawsuit said.
The bedbugs were emotionally traumatic for Mrs. Bluming because she is a cancer survivor with a compromised immune system, the lawsuit said.
Danielle DeVoe, a vice president of Mandarin Oriental Group in the Americas, confirmed Monday that there was "a regrettable but isolated incident of infestation which occurred in May within one guest room at our London properties."
She said a full investigation was carried out after the problem was reported.
"There have been no subsequent incidents and the matter has been referred to our insurers," she said. "Our policy is to operate with the highest standards of conduct with stringent hygiene systems at all of our hotels to safeguard the health and safety of our guests."
The hotel chain was accused in the lawsuit of fraud, deceptive trade practice, negligence, recklessness, intentional infliction of emotional distress and nuisance.
Weinstein said the hotel was slow to respond to the couple's requests for information about the infestation and has still not turned over a formal report prepared by an exterminator.
He said that as the Blumings sought word from doctors and the hotel as to what might have caused their wounds, the hotel delayed for nearly a week the knowledge that bedbugs were to blame.
The bedbug attack occurred as the couple was in London for an annual meeting of a global network association of more than 1,500 lawyers representing over 100 offices in 38 countries, Weinstein said.