By Gary Nelson
MIAMI (CBSMiami) — When Cindi Avila and her husband, Mike, went to the Bahamas last year they were looking for a weekend in paradise at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort, but they woke up to paradise lost. Cindi was covered with bedbug bites.
“I really have never been in such pain in my life. I mean, these things are just swelling up all over my body,” Avila said in a video shot several days after she returned from the Bahamas. She was covered with ugly, red bedbug bites from head to knees.
When Avila and her husband turned back the mattress cover in their resort room, they discovered a colony of black bedbugs on her side of the bed. They took cell phone video of the blood-sucking insects.
“Oh, there’s big ones there!” exclaimed her husband. “Holy crap!” Cindi can be heard shouting.
“It was like something out of a horror movie. We saw hundreds of bugs running around, and also their excrement all over the bed skirt,” Avila said Wednesday in an interview at her attorney’s office.
For nearly a week, Avila used prescription meds that she says provided no relief.
“I want to basically crawl out of my skin, die, or go the hospital,” Avila said in the video shot at the time. She said her doctor told her she suffered the most severe bedbug attack he had ever seen.
“A living hell. The worst days I’ve ever had – more pain than you could imagine,” Avila said Wednesday.
Her attorney says he’s handled a dozen hotel bedbug cases, but nothing as bad as Avila’s.
“When you check into a hotel, the Atlantis hotel that is really a five-star hotel, that comes with expectations, one of which is the sheets are going to be clean and you’re not going to be eaten alive by bedbugs,” said attorney Michael Winkleman.
Avila says hotel management seemed unconcerned at the time.
“They didn’t seem to care about me or the way I was feeling,” Avila said.
The Atlantis Paradise Island Resort issued this written statement Wednesday: “Atlantis, Paradise Island has the utmost concern and respect for every guest experience. Included in our protocol are very strict standards of hotel hygiene and cleanliness. In the unusual event we are made aware of a concern, we respond immediately to the situation and take the appropriate steps to remediate the problem as we did with Ms. Avila. When Ms. Avila reported a concern about bedbugs in her room, the resort immediately took the room out of service, brought in the property’s professional pest company to eradicate the problem and provided compensation for her stay. The property had no prior complaints regarding Ms. Avila’s room and has had no reports of bedbugs in the room in the more than one year since her stay. The resort offered to reimburse Ms. Avila for any medical bills resulting from her experience, which she declined. Since that time, Ms. Avila has repeatedly, and through three different attorneys, attempted to extract a large financial settlement from the resort and threatened intimidation in the media if her financial demands were not met. Atlantis is dedicated to treating all guests fairly and handling claims professionally. We have engaged with Ms. Avila directly and then her multiple prior attorneys continually over the year since this incident took place in an effort to resolve this matter. We regret that she has decided to take this course of action in a further effort to extract a large financial reward.”
Avila’s attorney, Winkleman, counters that the resort has offered no settlement at all, other than saying it would pay for her medical bills. He also points out that the hotel’s statement addresses “no reports of bedbugs in the room” where the Avila’s stayed, but makes no mention of any prior or subsequent bedbug issues in other rooms.
“Anyone who went on Google, you can see a number of other complaints about people having bedbug problems at the Atlantis hotel,” Winkleman said.
Atlantis Paradise Island Resort did not respond to an email from CBS4 News requesting clarification of its written statement.
Avila says that, through her lawsuit, she just wants the hotel to feel her pain, and to protect others.
“Take notice of this, and take preventive measures to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else,” Avila said Wednesday.
Bedbugs notoriously travel. When Avila and her husband got home from the Bahamas, she says they immediately threw out all the clothing and luggage they had taken with them, some expensive clothes and bags.