- Associated Press - Thursday, April 24, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A judge has scheduled a three-day hearing to listen to any objections to the proposed $2.45 million settlement of a lawsuit over bedbugs at two downtown Des Moines apartment buildings.

Payments to the estimated 300 current and former residents of Elsie Mason Manor and Ligutti Tower could range from $200 to $6,000, the Des Moines Register reported (https://dmreg.co/1jqAy0G ). Residents filed the lawsuit in March 2010 seeking money for back rent, lost property and other hardships.

“It’s very significant in that it’s finally coming to a conclusion where in the near future we can get our clients compensation for what happened,” said Jeffrey Lipman, one of the attorneys who represented the residents.

The class-action lawsuit alleged violations of Iowa’s consumer protection law and said the apartment managers assured tenants that the apartments were habitable despite knowing of the bedbug problem. Residents said problems with the bedbugs began in 2007.

The buildings’ former owners make no admissions in the preliminary settlement about negligent conduct.

David Zwickey, CEO and president of American Baptist Homes of the Midwest, which previously owned the two buildings, said is his organization is satisfied with the terms of the settlement. He declined to comment on what management could have done to prevent infestation.

“This was a very unfortunate incident,” he said.

The new owner, developer Frank Levy, said he’s working on a list of improvements, including a new elevator and reducing bedbugs.

Court documents indicate the residents said their apartments have had bedbugs for years and that residents had been bitten, scarred and deprived of sleep. The case was settled before it went to trial.

Lipman said the settlement could have implications for similar cases.

“I think this puts landlords on notice that they cannot ignore bedbug issues,” he said. “If they don’t take care of it, if they don’t warn consumers, they’re going to be held accountable.”

About 200 class members have completed claim forms since the preliminary agreement was filed. Lipman and his colleagues continue to seek out others who may be entitled to money.


Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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