By: James Halpin
WILKES-BARRE — Residents of the Lincoln Plaza apartments on Thursday filed a federal class-action lawsuit alleging the Wilkes-Barre Housing Authority has for years failed to address a bed bug infestation.
The complaint filed by 17 tenants alleges Donna Kozak, the property manager at the 200-unit housing project at 50 Lincoln Plaza, knew about the presence of bed bugs as early as 2013 but failed to act.
Kozak acted recklessly and violated residents’ rights by “lulling new residents and their families into leasing apartments in a building infested and overrun with bed bugs that defendant Kozak knew would attack their persons and invade their personal property,” the complaint alleges.
“(Tenants) have fallen prey to unconscionable and substandard living conditions due to a severe and unabated infestation of bed bugs at Lincoln Plaza,” says the complaint, filed by Kingston attorney Peter C. Wood Jr.
The complaint alleges that after being informed about the infestation, Kozak actively worked to conceal the problem, denying the presence of any bed bugs.
The bugs, meanwhile, spread throughout the 10-story high-rise as well as two low-rise sections of the complex, the complaint says. The authority continued to rent out apartments, failing to disclose the insect infestation, according to the complaint.
“Today, bed bugs can be found on every floor of all three buildings at Lincoln Plaza, in multiple apartments on each floor, as well as in common areas, including hallways, elevators, and the resident community room,” Wood wrote. “As a result of defendants’ conduct, the apartments at Lincoln Plaza have been reduced to dangerous and essentially uninhabitable living units with no more than nominal values.”
The complaint alleges the public authority’s actions resulted in a “state-created danger” to health and that the authority acted with negligence.
The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring the authority to exterminate the bugs, as well as compensatory and punitive damages to be determined at trial.
A message left with the housing authority was not immediately returned Thursday.