The Hyatt hotel chain has agreed to pay $120,000 to a man who claimed a hypodermic needle popped out of his bed and stabbed him in the leg three years ago -- causing him a "nightmare" of worry that he contracted the AIDS virus.
Kenneth Bressler, a New York lawyer who checked into the Hyatt Regency in downtown Baltimore, said yesterday that he was so frightened about the prospect of contracting the deadly virus that he had himself tested about six times during the two years that followed the incident.
He tested negative each time, making it highly unlikely that traces of the human immunodeficiency virus entered his bloodstream and placed him at risk for developing AIDS. But he said, "I can tell you it was a nightmare. It was incredibly stressful."
Mr. Bressler, 33, said he wanted to put the incident behind him and refused to comment further. His lawyer, Gary Strausberg, said his client sued Hyatt for "the mental anguish he and his wife suffered, particularly those first few months as a result of fearing he might have contracted AIDS."
The case was scheduled for trial yesterday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, but Judge Marvin J. Garbis dismissed the jury after learning that the case had been settled. The case was settled Friday night, according to Mr. Strausberg.
Mr. Bressler checked into the hotel during a business trip Sept. 21, 1988. When he pulled back the covers to retire for the night, his lawyer said, the action somehow dislodged a hypodermic needle that bounced out of his bed, stabbed him in the calf and fell to the floor. The needle drew a small trickle of blood.
"What he learned was that the previous night, the Hyatt staff found a number of hypodermic needles all over the room," Mr. Strausberg said. "The room was in a totally disheveled state. There was some kind of drug party going on." While cleaning the room, the staff must have overlooked a needle that lay hidden in the bed, he said.
Hyatt's lawyer, Matthew Kastantin of Rockville, could not be reached for comment.
After the incident, Mr. Bressler placed the needle in a plastic bag and returned to New York, where he submitted it to a laboratory for analysis. The lab didn't find any traces of HIV but did find particles of procaine -- a substance that is commonly used by drug dealers to cut cocaine.
Intravenous drug use is one of the most common pathways for the spread of HIV.