May 30, 2008 — -- A Fox News employee suffering from "post-traumatic stress syndrome" has filed a lawsuit against the owners of the network's building for failing to adequately rid the premises of the source of her mental anguish -- bedbugs.
Jane Clark, a 12-year veteran of the cable news network, says she was bitten three times in Fox's newsroom over the course of seven months, resulting in a fear of the insects and of her workplace.
She says she routinely wakes up to nightmares about bedbugs, leading her to sleep with a flashlight and franticly search her sheets for the pests when she wakes up horrified in the middle of the night.
"I'm terrified of bringing [the bugs] home to my family. I see things crawling on the walls that aren't really there," she said.
She has not been to work since soon after the last time she claims to have been bitten by bugs April 30.
Clark has filed suit against Beacon Capital Partners and Cushman & Wakefield, the companies that respectively own and manage the Manhattan address where Fox News is headquartered.
She has not, however, filed suit against Fox News or its parent company, News Corp.
Clark was first bitten in October 2007 and again in November, prompting the network to call in bug-sniffing dogs and exterminators, and ultimately move the personnel in her department from the newsroom to another floor.
She said the infestation was so bad at the end of last year that she was "catching bugs on a piece of tape as they walked across my desk" and that she would every day examine her chair, which she kept covered in a plastic bag.
When returning home from work, she said, she would remove her clothes outside her door and seal them in a plastic bag to protect her husband and baby from being bitten. The bugs, she said, never infested her Manhattan apartment.
Clark's lawyer, Alan Schnurman, described her condition as an "acute psychological injury."
The outbreak originated at Fox News with an employee who sat at Clark's desk on the weekend. Warren Vandeveer, senior vice president for operations and engineering at Fox News, told The New York Times in March that when an exterminator visited the home of the employee, he characterized it as "the worst infestation he had seen in 25 years in the business."
Bedbugs are small, wingless blood-sucking insects that respond to body heat. Their bites result in painful, itchy welts.
A spokesman for Fox News would not comment on Clark's case on the record because the company was not named in the suit.
He confirmed the extent of the outbreak, the measures the company had taken and that Clark was receiving workman's compensation to pay for her three weekly visits to a psychologist.
In a statement issued jointly by 1211 6th Avenue Property Owner, a subsidiary of Beacon Capital, the building's owner, and Cushman & Wakefield, the building manager, the companies denied knowing about the infestation and said they were not responsible.
"Neither building management nor ownership was notified about the situation while it was going on, nor does building ownership or management provide extermination services to tenants as tenants are responsible for providing those services within their own premises," the statement reads.
"We understand a complaint has been filed, however we cannot comment on the specifics of any litigation, as we have not yet had the opportunity to review the complaint in detail," it read.
Schnurman, Clark's lawyer, said his client could not sue Fox News under New York state law because her medical expenses and pay were being taken care of through workman's compensation insurance.
Clark said at least one other person reported being bitten, but no other lawsuits have yet been filed.