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Fox News worker cannot sue employer's landlord for bedbug infestation: Judge


NEW YORK—The high-profile bedbugs lawsuit involving a former Fox News employee who sued the landlord of the building she worked in was thrown out this month by a New York Supreme Court judge, who stated workers can’t hold their employers’ landlords responsible for injuries on the job.

On April 12, Judge Carol Robinson Edmead wrote in her decision that Jane Clark, who worked as a Fox News satellite feed coordinator, had “no contractual relationship” with the property defendants in the case—Beacon Capital Partners L.L.C., 1211 6th Avenue Property Owner L.L.C. and Cushman & Wakefield Inc.—and therefore the case was dismissed.

Ms. Clark’s case marks the first time a worker sued an employer’s landlord over bedbugs. Her attorney told the Associated Press that they planned to appeal the dismissal.

New York has been in a long struggle with bedbug infestations that affected the city’s hospitality industry, retail stores, restaurants and office buildings.

Ms. Clark said she first started experiencing bedbug bites at work in October 2007 while working in Fox’s offices at 1211 6th Ave. in New York, according to court documents. She said she continued to be bitten in November and that when Fox moved its offices to another floor of the building in early 2008, the bites still persisted.

As a result of the bites, Ms. Clark allegedly sustained physical and psychic injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder, which required medical treatment, and has been out of work since, receiving workers compensation benefits from Fox News, according to the court decision.

When Fox News became aware of the problem in October 2007, it contacted a pest removal service to treat its offices, with chemical treatments beginning on Dec. 1, court documents said, noting that treatments continued in 2008 after Fox News moved its studio offices within the building.

It wasn’t until the pest elimination service hired a certified entomologist, who not only inspected the building but also the homes of the employees, that the source of the bedbugs became apparent.

According to court documents, a co-worker of Ms. Clark’s who worked on the same desk as her and lived in an apartment badly infested with bedbugs had been bringing the biting pests with him to work.

The entomologist concluded after his investigation that the building’s pest elimination and bedbug treatments were working, but the employee—who no longer works for Fox News—kept reinfesting the office.

Ms. Clark’s attorneys did not dispute that her fellow employee was the source of the infestation, yet they alleged that the property owners were negligent because they allowed the leased premises to become infected with bedbugs, failed to warn her of the infestation and failed to remedy the problem, according to court documents.

Judge Edmead disagreed with Ms. Clark’s argument and dismissed the case. She said in her ruling that the plaintiff was asking the court to find a landlord liable for any injury to a tenant’s employees, regardless of the cause, which is inconsistent with the law.

“Fox News took extraordinary measures to combat the bedbug infestation,” she wrote in her ruling, adding that the building owners and managers took proper enough action to combat the problem.

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