BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - The pest control company Orkin will have to pay a Biloxi couple more than $1.9 million, after an arbitrator found the company committed fraud by withholding material facts.
Wesley and Melissa Manning entered into arbitration with Orkin over a termite contract that the couple said the pest control company fraudulently sold them, asking for punitive damages as well as the cost to relocate and additional money for the mental anguish they have suffered. The couple claimed Orkin intentionally withheld facts in the termite protection contract, did not comply with state regulations, and committed fraud.
According to the arbitrator’s findings, a termite prevention contract with Orkin was already in effect in 2016 when the Mannings purchased their home. That plan was transferred over from the original owner to the Mannings at the time the property was purchased. However, the couple said they were never provided with a copy of the contract.
Soon after, the Mannings said they discovered wood damage to their home and reported it to Orkin. An inspector came and did a spot treatment of the area the Mannings found concerning. It was then that they learned their coverage did not include protection from Formosan termites, which supposedly caused the damage, and that their remedies were limited to re-treatment alone, the couple said.
Orkin suggested another spot treatment, but Mrs. Manning refused and contacted attorney Thomas Campbell. Campbell then filed a complaint with the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, which regulates pest control in Mississippi.
According to arbitration documents, an inspection by MDAC showed that the home was treated in 2011 with a conventional, post-construction treatment. The inspector found that no bricks had been drilled into in the foundation walls, documents said. The demand also said there was also no indication of how much of the termiticide solution was used to treat the areas listed. Mississippi regulations require the treatment of foundation walls for that specific treatment. Failing to treat the foundation walls is a violation of the state regulation.
MDAC reviewed the history of Orkin’s involvement in the home and discovered that the Dosage Sheet for the initial treatment for the previous owners, the 'Crofts, in 2011, showed a Post Construction (Conventional) treatment had been performed, according to arbitration documents.
That inspection led the Mannings to uncover extensive damage to their home, according to the couple. However, because the house has a brick exterior but is wood structured inside, they argue that none of the experts consulted so far have been able to say how much it will cost to repair the house because “how does one get to the wooden areas without dismantling the walls?” One expert said the outside brick that has to be replaced also won’t match the original brick, adding to the expense, the couple said.
Additionally, foam board and sheet rock on the interiors needs to be repaired, along with the garage wall, baseboards, and bookcases built in on the sides of the living room fireplace, according to the demand.
The Mannings also discovered damage to a decorative beam in the living room ceiling, baseboards in several rooms, the kitchen wall above the sink and several areas including the children’s playroom. The couple said termites had managed to infiltrate the home aggressively. A live Formosan termite was spotted in the courtyard and Respondent Orkin concluded that most, if not all, damage had been caused by non-covered Formosan termites, according to arbitration documents.
According to the arbitrator’s award, MDAC requires a pest control company licensed by the state to perform a conventional treatment involving specific steps unless otherwise stated in the contract. Those steps were not followed, said Campbell, the Mannings’ attorney. Instead, Orkin indicated a place on the contract that said “PP,” explaining that it means “Perimeter Plus.” Orkin suggested the language was enough to notify the customer that a limited treatment would be performed.
MDAC regulations, however, maintain that the contract "must clearly state in bold letters on the face of the contract if damage repairs are included or if only retreatment is provided."
According to attorney Thomas Campbell, this fraud voids all restrictions in termite bonds. And customers whose homes and businesses are damaged can recover the full range of damages, including punitive damages, even if Orkin issued contracts that do not cover Fomosan termites or the cost of repairs.
The Mannings were awarded a total of $1,978,973, which included $1 million in punitive damages. Orkin was also ordered to pay an addition $631,445 for the Mannings’ attorney fees.
See the complete Award of Arbitrator here: https://bit.ly/334QmC4