from the LaPorte Superior Court The Honorable Jeffrey L.
Thorne, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 46D03-1710-SC-2122
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Candace C. Williams Tolbert &
Tolbert, LLC Gary, Indiana
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Charles C. Hoppe, Jr. Roland Clark
Knight Hoppe Kurnik & Knight, Ltd. Schererville, Indiana
VAIDIK, CHIEF JUDGE.
While Maurice Johnson was a guest at Blue Chip Casino Hotel
Spa in Michigan City, he woke up to discover bed-bug bites on
his right arm. Johnson brought a small-claims action against
Blue Chip Casino, LLC, and the court entered judgment in
favor of Blue Chip. Johnson now appeals, arguing that the
doctrine of res ipsa loquitur applies to this case. Because
Johnson has failed to prove that the presence of bed bugs in
his hotel room more probably resulted from Blue Chip's
negligence as opposed to another cause, we affirm the
small-claims court's judgment in favor of Blue Chip.
and Procedural History
Johnson and his wife checked into Room 1253 at Blue Chip on
January 1, 2017. Because the room had two full beds (instead
of a king bed as they had requested), Johnson and his wife
slept in separate beds. When Johnson and his wife pulled down
the sheets as they were going to bed, they did not see any
bed bugs in their respective beds. But when Johnson woke up
the next morning, he noticed bites on his arm and then saw
one live bed bug on his pillow. He pulled down the sheets and
saw two shell casings from dead bed bugs. Johnson's wife
took photos. Ex. 1. Johnson called guest services, and a
supervisor came to their room, put the live bed bug in a jar,
and had Johnson's and his wife's belongings "hot
boxed" to kill any other bed bugs. Tr. p. 19. After
checking out of the hotel, Johnson went to the emergency
room, where he was treated for bed-bug bites and given an
In October 2017, Johnson filed a notice of claim in
small-claims court in LaPorte County alleging that "[a]s
a result of his stay, [he] received bed bug bites" and
"incurred medical expenses and suffered emotional
distress due to [Blue Chip's] negligence and breach of
their duty of care." Appellant's App. Vol. II p. 9.
At trial, Blue Chip's Safety Loss Prevention Manager,
Rosella Luna, testified that because bed bugs are found in
"hotels" and "a lot of other places,"
Blue Chip has policies and procedures for inspecting and
treating hotel rooms for them. Tr. p. 44. Luna explained that
new hires undergo training on how to look for bed bugs and
that all housekeepers and supervisors undergo annual training
as well. Luna said that Blue Chip's hotel rooms are
cleaned and inspected daily (assuming they are rented out)
and that the inspections include looking for evidence of bed
bugs. Specifically, when housekeepers strip the beds, they
look at the mattresses "to see if there is any
evidence" of bed bugs. Id. at 42. Housekeepers
also look for evidence of bed bugs in "the nooks and
crannies" of the rooms, including furniture and bedding.
Id. If a bed bug is found during a room inspection,
that room as well as the surrounding rooms are taken out of
service. A professional pest-control company then inspects
the rooms and, if necessary, treats them. The treated rooms
are held out of service until the pest-control company
certifies that they're clean and safe to rent.
Luna also testified that about two months before
Johnson's January 2017 stay, on November 4, 2016, Blue
Chip received a complaint about bed bugs in the same room,
Room 1253. At that time, Terminix "inspected and treated
the room and held [it] out of service until . . . November
11, 201." Id. at 35. Luna testified that she
did not know if that guest brought the bed bugs into the
hotel room, because "I can't tell you if people
bring them in or not." Id. at 43. From November
11, 2016, until January 2, 2017, Blue Chip did not receive
any other complaints about bed bugs in Room 1253 even though
the room was rented during that time. Id. at 35.
Following trial, the small-claims court entered findings and
judgment in favor of Blue Chip. The court acknowledged that
Johnson seemed to argue that "the existence of a bed bug
is Res Ipsa Loquitur on the part of an inn keeper";
however, it found no merit to this argument. Appellant's
App. Vol. II p. 8.
Johnson now appeals.
The small-claims court determined that Johnson failed to meet
his burden of proof regarding his claim against Blue Chip.
Because the small-claims court's decision was not in
Johnson's favor, he is appealing from a negative
judgment. On appeal, we will not reverse a negative judgment
unless it is contrary to law. LTL Truck Serv., LLC v.
Safeguard, Inc.,817 N.E.2d 664, 667 (Ind.Ct.App. 2004).
To determine whether a judgment is contrary to law, we
consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the
appellee, together with all the reasonable inferences to be