Airbnb lawsuit raises question of duty to warn of host’s arrest record

airbnb lawsuit

On this blog, we previously considered whether an Airbnb host could face liability for an assault committed by another person. Now, the company itself, an Airbnb lawsuit raises the question of whether the company may be liable for the sexual assault of a guest – allegedly committed by an Airbnb host himself.

Airbnb is a popular peer-to-peer online platform, through which travelers around the world can lease out or stay in others’ homes.  For each transaction on its platform, Airbnb retains a percentage as its fee.

In what the Guardian describes as “a first-of-its-kind” lawsuit, a guest sued Airbnb this week alleging that she was sexually assaulted by her host after renting a room through the online service.

The crux of the complaint is that Airbnb wrongfully permitted the host to list property on Airbnb’s site in light of a previous arrest (involving domestic violence).

Knowledge of this prior arrest would, the lawsuit claims, have been available to Airbnb through the background checks conducted.

And, presumably, if disclosed, this information would have prevented the plaintiff from leasing the room.

This most recent Airbnb lawsuit raises basic questions of duty under premises liability actions, only this time applied to a new world.

Airbnb admits that it conducted a background check on the host in question—but claimed that the company did not bar the host from listing his property on Airbnb because he had never actually been convicted of the alleged crime.

There can be little doubt that the question of what weight an arrest alone should carry generally in our society is a legitimate one.

But this particular case raises the question of whether Airbnb can reasonably be said to have induced reliance based on the company’s assurances (implied or express) of safety:

Teresa Li, Lapayowker’s attorney, argued that Airbnb misleads users with branding that emphasizes the safety of the platform and calling it a “trusted community marketplace”.

They lure you in and give you this false sense of security” she said.

Distilled to its essence, the question becomes did Airbnb have an affirmative duty to warn (whether as a matter of policy or foreseeability) of prior events that were revealed to the company through its background checks?

Or, from another angle, does Airbnb become a virtual landowner by listing and making properties available through its platform, sufficient to give rise to a duty to warn of associated dangers?

This question of whether Airbnb had a duty to pass on information of which the company had superior knowledge should most certainly be left for a jury to decide.

We proudly stand alongside our Arab American brothers and sisters of all faiths

We have filed suit to enforce our client’s right to stand against and live in freedom from discrimination.

The Fair Housing Act of 1968, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 makes it unlawful to discriminate as to the terms, conditions, and privileges of housing because of an individual’s national origin. It also protects a person’s right to oppose such discrimination.

Titles VI and VII and of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 similarly prohibit discrimination in employment and education. 

We proudly stand alongside our Arab American brothers and sisters of all faiths, and alongside our Muslim brothers and sisters of all ethnicities, and will vigorously fight to defend their right to equal protection and to freedom from discrimination.

Blain LLC files lawsuit for severe burns to inmate caused by collapse of Rubbermaid Commercial Products Brute container

Our firm has filed a lawsuit for severe burns sustained by a 26 year-old man, which resulted in surgical skin grafts to both feet.

The case arose during his incarceration at USP Atlanta and involves an established practice of food service workers filling containers with kettle-heated water to wash and soak dishes.  The plaintiff, who worked in the kitchen, alleges that while he was standing nearby, a filled container collapsed, releasing scalding hot water onto his feet.

The lawsuit comes following multiple similar injuries to inmates involving plastic trash containers, which are commonly used in correctional institutions for storing or transporting hot water.

The lawsuit alleges that the global marketer Newell Brands, promoted its garbage containers in a way that encouraged commercial and institutional uses that extend beyond “merely storing trash.”

In particular, the lawsuit claims that Newell Brands promoted the container to correctional institutions as “virtually indestructible,” “one of the most versatile containers on the market,” and “suitable for extreme temperatures” despite knowledge that due to the container’s low-density polyethylene material, it tends to fail under thermal stress.

In a 2014 decision, an inmate at the Wayne Scott Unit in Texas sustained burns when a nearby plastic trash container was filled with hot water and melted.

In another Texas case, an inmate was injured when nearby plastic trash cans filled with hot water by food service workers collapsed.

And two additional cases, both decided in 2006, centered on burns suffered by inmates when containers used for transporting hot water failed.

Atlanta Business Chronicle

 

 

Can you get sued if someone is raped in your Airbnb listed space?

Airbnb, the popular space-sharing site, is a fantastic way to visit far away places and host others in your community and home. 

But bad things can happen too.  What if something unseemly, violent, or harmful happens in your airbnb space when you’re not even there — can you be held legally responsible? 

The short answer is maybe.

If you list your space on Airbnb or other site and make it available to guests for a charge, you have a duty to protect them from certain dangers — in particular, dangers that they might not perceive for themselves.

In other words, you are not responsible for ensuring the absolute safety of the people you host (by providing a bodyguard, fitting them for protective armor, or enrolling them in self-defense courses).  The law does not expect you to be an insurer of their safety.

So, if, unbeknownst to you, your guests decide to host a frat party on your space, and someone is sexually assaulted, raped, or some other crime is committed, then no, it is not likely you could be held legally responsible (unless, of course, you had reason to believe or suspect it was going to happen and did nothing to prevent it).

However, under the law you are responsible for taking reasonable precautions and warning your guests of dangers of which they might not be aware.

For instance, if you know that there is an escaped convict on the loose and that there has been a string of violent break-ins and instances of rape in the neighborhood, then you must, at minimum, warn your guests so they know to be extra careful.  If you say nothing, and your guest falls victim, then you may be held legally responsible.

The responsibility to protect your guests comes from knowing about a risk of danger that goes above and beyond the general risk of living in this world.

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So, you don’t need to warn of general dangers like watching for cars when crossing the street, or being careful with knives when slicing tomatoes.  But you do need to warn of risks that would not be as apparent to them — and of which you know about because you live there.

It’s all about the dangers that you know about — and that your guests don’t.

The basis for legal liability in these types of situations is the host’s ‘superior knowledge’ of a dangerous condition; whether violent criminals on the loose, vicious animals, a higher incidence of crime in the neighborhood, a rash of car break-ins, or a series of armed home break-ins.
If you know of a danger in your space or neighborhood that should warrant your guests taking extra safety precautions, then under the law you have a duty to warn them.
And if you don’t, and something bad happens, it could lead to a lawsuit.

How to write a great demand letter (for lawyers)

In this video, attorney Candice Blain discusses how to write a great demand letter. Thank you to http://www.bensound.com for the music.

Transcript below.

Done with that?

Then read this: How to craft an auto accident demand letter


 

Transcript:

Who enjoys writing demand letters? Writing a demand letter is tough. And most lawyers will do everything they can to push back that moment when it’s time to sit down, put pen to paper, and write one.  

But if done right, the demand letter can be a lawyer’s most effective tool.

The key to mastering the power of the demand letter is in understanding what it is really meant to do. Yes, a demand letter is not entirely unlike a ransom note.

But unlike a ransom note, what you are threatening here (hopefully), is not murder, but business.

A demand letter is less a legal document, and more a business proposal. 

What this means is that the purpose of a demand letter is not to threaten to file a lawsuit.

Threatening to file lawsuit against an insurance company is a lot like threatening a plumber that you will call him. Lawsuits are the very stuff in which insurance companies deal.

So to write a great and compelling demand letter, you need to speak their language.

You need two things: A Compelling story. And a case.

You begin a demand letter with a compelling story.

Compelling to whom? Well, compelling to a jury. But as seen through the eyes of an adjuster.  What you trying to do is to give a preview of the story that will be told at trial. in writing a demand letter, you are fast-forwarding through time, all the way through discovery and litigation, to  the time of trial. You want to show the adjuster what the jury will be seeing and hearing. 

When this is done properly, what the reader will focus on will not be legal nuances, or case law, but how he now believes a jury will feel about what happened.

This is your story.

In addition to telling your story you need a case.

Not a legal one. A business one.

To make your case, you must identify a number, that is, a settlement figure you would now accept.

The effectiveness of your demand letter hinges on how well you create an incentive for the adjuster to agree to that number.

A demand letter is about incentives.The whole purpose of a demand letter is to show adjuster why a compromise, now — today, is the most sound business decision.

You do this by showing the adjuster why you will win at trial, and why it will end up costing more than it would to settle today.

In other words, the purpose of a demand letter is to illustrate why the cost of settling now is less than the cost of going all the way to trial. 

So, don’t place your final offer in or above the range you hope to achieve by winning at trial. Proposing that number is merely an invitation to meet in the courtroom.

Instead, in your demand letter, propose a deal. Explain why settling later — or not settling at all — will ultimately cost more than what you propose today.

In short, make them an offer they can’t refuse.

A great demand letter consists of two parts: a compelling story and a case. Tell your story as the jury will hear it. Then, pitch your offer: explain why what you are now proposing is the best possible outcome.