- Associated Press - Thursday, June 5, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A Polk County judge has approved a $2.45 million settlement of a lawsuit over bedbugs at two downtown Des Moines apartment towers.

Judge Robert Blink on Wednesday approved the settlement involving more than 220 people who live or once lived at Elsie Mason Manor and Ligutti Tower, The Des Moines Register reported (https://dmreg.co/1xclPwO ). The settlement is between the class-action group and First Baptist Elderly Housing Foundation, First Baptist Housing Foundation and American Baptist Homes of the Midwest.

One of the group’s attorneys said residents, former residents and some family members of deceased former residents are expected to receive payments within 10 days. The amounts will range from about $200 to $11,000.

Residents filed the lawsuit in 2010 seeking money for back rent, lost property and other hardships in connection to an infestation of bedbugs, which they said began in 2007. As part of the settlement, the former owners made no admissions related to negligent conduct.

David Zwickey, CEO and president of American Baptist Homes of the Midwest, and John Bloem, chairman of the First Baptist Elderly Housing Foundation, testified during the hearing Wednesday that the settlement was fair, reasonable and adequate.

Sue Rodgers, one of the people involved in the lawsuit, said plaintiffs felt pride knowing their legal action had made a difference for other residents.

“We were never in it for the money,” she said. “We just wanted (the bedbugs) out.”

Dusty Donaldson, another resident involved in the suit, expressed relief with the decision. He said he still has scars from the bedbug bites he received.

“I think that we accomplished something that we were committed to,” he said.

The newspaper reported that a developer controls the properties now. A system for pest monitoring has been implemented, and the buildings are being renovated.

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

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