It is this exact question that a New Jersey appellate court has just decided. In the case of Mitchell v. Capitol Management, Marilyn Mitchell’s one bedroom apartment in an 800 unit complex was indisputably infested with bedbugs. She sued the landlord on a negligence theory. At trial, the trial court directed a verdict for the defense holding that there was no evidence “about how the bed bugs got into her apartment or that the landlord was at fault.” An appeal resulted and the Superior Court, in an unpublished opinion, has just weighed in. The appellate division upheld the trial court and held that the plaintiff’s burden is to prove, at trial, that landlord negligence caused the infestation. Landlord negligence cannot be assumed merely because the bedbugs exist.
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