Thursday, July 31, 2014
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Bedbugs attack at Manayunk movie theater, lawsuit claims

A woman was bitten by bed bugs at the United Artists Main Street movie theater in Manayunk, a lawsuit claims. (Google Maps; insert: CDC)
A woman was bitten by bed bugs at the United Artists Main Street movie theater in Manayunk, a lawsuit claims. (Google Maps; insert: CDC) Google Maps / Centers for Disease Control

An East Germantown woman's cinema outing morphed into a real-life creature feature when she was “aggressively attacked” by bedbugs at a local movie theater, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in the civil division of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

Sabrina Hammond attended the United Artists Main Street Theatre 6 in Manayunk on Sept. 28, 2013, according to the complaint. While there, she became fodder for a hoard of bloodthirsty bedbugs, the lawsuit claims.

Hammond allegedly suffered serious parasite-related injuries to the head, body and extremities, “including, but not limited to bites on her legs and buttocks, and a severe shock to the nerves and nervous system,” according to the suit.

The complaint claims the damage has interfered with Hammond’s daily routine and may be permanent. Hammond will have to continue to spend money on medical treatment in the future, the suit alleges.

Both Hammond and her attorney declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

Reports of bedbugs have been on the rise in Philadelphia for the past several years. A 2013 Terminix survey ranked Philly as the nation’s second most bedbug-infested city.

A Penn Medicine study published earlier this year in the Journal of Medical Entomology found that, from 2008 to 2011, reports of bedbugs in the city rose 4.5 percent each month, an increase of nearly 70 percent year to year. The study recorded 382 reports of bedbug infestations in Philadelphia during those three years.

That number exploded between September 2011 and June 2012, when city residents made 236 reports of bedbug infestations, according to study results. The number of infestations peaked annually in August and reached a yearly low each February, the study found.

Though anecdotal reports of movie theater bedbug infestations are legion, fewer complaints have been independently confirmed. An AMC in Wisconsin reportedly underwent pest control treatments in October after bedbugs were found in three rows of seats in one auditorium of the theater.

In 2010, bedbug infestations temporarily shuttered the AMC Loewes Monmouth Mall movie theater in Eatontown, N.J., as well as AMC theaters in Harlem and Manhattan.

A spokesman for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health said the agency does not require proprietors to report bedbug infestations because the insects are regarded as pests, not vectors for the transmission of diseases.

The lawsuit filed this week faults United Artists Theatres for allegedly failing to adequately inspect its Main Street premises and to observe protocols for the detection and eradication of bed bugs. It also claims the theater maintained conditions “which it knew or had reason to know presented an unreasonable risk of harm to the plaintiff.”

The Regal Entertainment Group, which operates the United Artists chain, did not return calls or emails seeking comment. Court documents did not list an attorney for the company.

The lawsuit, which is asking for less than $50,000 in monetary damages, has been submitted to arbitration, court records indicate. A hearing is scheduled for March 16.


Contact Alex Wigglesworth at 215-854-2305 or awigglesworth@philly.com. Follow @phila_lex on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; BreakingNewsDesk@philly.com. Follow @phillynews on Twitter.

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