TOWSON, Md. (ABC7) — Some lawyers savor 'blood sucking,' but attorney Dan Whitney despises it.
"Typically, our clients do a Google search for, 'bed bug lawyer' and we pop up," said Whitney.
Whitney, who has practiced law in Maryland since 1979, fell into the niche bed bug legal market after his daughter returned from a EuroTrip in 2010 with multiple bites.
"And that was the first time I'd heard about bed bugs since I was a child and my father would say, 'sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite,'" said Whitney.
Whitney's court filings read like a horror novel, with words and phrases like " Fed Upon," "Nocturnal Parasites," "Infestation," "Biohazard," and "Blood Meals."
"There's something about bed bugs that really disturb people -- and they realize it shouldn't be tolerated," said Whitney.
So far, Whitney has filed more than 115 cases in places as far as Seattle, San Antonio, Orlando and Philadelphia; but he focuses on primarily Maryland and DC. One suit lodged against The Courtyard Marriott in Downtown Silver Spring after a woman said she was bitten 50 times during her birthday weekend.
In a different case, a woman staying at the Woodspring Suites in Camp Springs claimed she woke up with welts on her back and chest, plus blood-stained sheets.
"And so they weren't held to account. That's changing now," said Whitney.
To date, Whitney's recovered more than $9 million from hotels, apartment complexes, hospitals, nursing homes, campgrounds and even a furniture store.
"The largest verdict was $800,000. The next highest was $250,000," said Whitney.
Client Shamila Rana told ABC7 that she, her husband and two young boys were literally eaten alive while staying at this Fairfield Inn by Marriott in Lower Manhattan, NY. The family, vacationing from Birmingham, England, recorded a cell phone videeo capturing live bugs and blood stains.
"There was no doubt then the manager came and shared a look," said Rana.
The hotel moved the Rana's to a different room, but their personal belongings were left quarantined. Then, the night before flying home, Shamila was in the ER with a 102-degree fever.
"We were literally traumatized by the whole thing," said Shamila. "Our trip was ruined and even when we came back, the kids were off school."
The Rana family case is still pending.
Whitney explains he's unaware of any federal laws regulating bed bug extermination; due in part, he says, to lobbyists working for the hospitality industry.
"In terms of lobbying Congress on behalf of individuals, that's not going to happen. They're totally outgunned." said Whitney.