Judge Tosses Worker’s Suit over NYC Office Bedbugs

By | April 26, 2011

A former TV news staffer’s pioneering lawsuit over bedbug bites she received at her office has been thrown out by a judge who said workers can’t necessarily hold their employers’ landlords responsible for injuries on the job.

Jane Clark’s lawyer said Friday she planned to appeal the dismissal of the case, which the court said apparently marked the first time a worker sued an employer’s landlord over bedbugs.

Repeated bedbug bites at work forced Clark to leave her job as a Fox News satellite feed coordinator in 2008 and caused post-traumatic stress disorder and other injuries, according to her lawsuit. She hasn’t been able to work since, said her lawyer, Alan Schnurman.

After Clark and others complained, the company scanned not only the cable news channel’s office but some employees’ homes for bedbugs, ultimately finding that the pests were arriving with a worker who lived in a heavily infested apartment and shared an office desk with Clark, according to the ruling, filed April 12. The other employee no longer works there, according to Clark’s lawsuit.

Clark sued the building’s landlord, among others, though not Fox News, from which she received workers’ compensation benefits, according to the ruling. The building owner’s lawyer and a spokeswoman for Fox News parent News Corp. didn’t immediately return telephone calls Friday seeking comment.

“Fox News took extraordinary measures to combat the bedbug infestation,” and building owners and managers couldn’t have done more, Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead wrote in the ruling, first reported by the New York Law Journal.

The judge said the lawsuit essentially asked the court to find a landlord liable for any injury to tenants’ employees, regardless of the cause, but that was “inconsistent” with the law.

But to Schnurman, the ruling amounts to telling an employee “that the environment doesn’t have to be safe for you.”

“If she’s right, that means no employee is safe in their workplace from bedbugs,” he said.

The building’s corporate owner and managers have said the bugs were confined to a limited area of the midtown Manhattan tower and were eradicated in 2008.

Topics Lawsuits Legislation

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