Last October, 3 American tourists died in an Airbnb apartment in Mexico City. Their cause of death was deemed as carbon monoxide poisoning. Now, their families plan to file wrongful death lawsuits.
How it happened
In October 2022, 3 young Americans journeyed to Mexico City to join in the annual celebration of Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). The holiday, widely observed in Mexico, is loosely related to Halloween, which is celebrated around the same time.
In a terrible tragedy, Kandace Florence (28), Jordan Marshall (28) and Courtez Hall (33) died of carbon monoxide poisoning at an Airbnb where they were staying in the La Rosita neighborhood on October 30.
Marshall and Hall were school teachers in New Orleans. Florence owned a small business in Virginia Beach.
Kandace was speaking with her boyfriend, Victor Day, by phone in the early morning hours of October 30. She mentioned that she was not feeling well but did not know what caused her ailment. They lost their connection, and Day could not get her back.
Day finally contacted the Airbnb host to voice his concern. The host found all 3 Americans unresponsive. The Mexico City police arrived shortly at the apartment, and the friends were pronounced dead at the scene.
Autopsies all showed evidence of carbon monoxide poisoning. An inspection of the apartment revealed that a water heater had been incorrectly installed and was leaking carbon monoxide.
Carbon monoxide poisoning
The victims arrived at the Airbnb apartment shortly before the festivities were to commence on November 1. They didn’t have much time to be exposed to carbon monoxide.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas. Smoke alarms cannot detect it. A victim typically detects no gas and is unaware of why they feel sick. If they’re in an enclosed area, death can result in a relatively short time.
The body’s response time depends on the density level of the gas. At 40 parts per million (ppm), the body responds within 10 hours. At 400 ppm, the response time is only 4 to 15 minutes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 430 people die in the U.S. every year from accidental CO poisoning. Another 50,000 visit emergency rooms annually.
Was Airbnb legally liable?
The families of the deceased travelers are reportedly planning to sue Airbnb. Chris Stewart, attorney for Florence’s mother, told NBC that Airbnb has been sued over the same issue in the past.
Airbnb has responded to inquiries stating, in part, that they offer smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to their hosts. They claim they’ve dispensed more than 200,000 free detectors.
Several cities have short-term rental regulations and licensing requirements. But, in many cases, they are nothing more than measures to facilitate the collection of hotel taxes.
Airbnb does not own or maintain short-term rental properties. They act as rental brokers for which they are paid a commission by the hosts.
Airbnb’s role is limited to a booking agent. The host sets the rental rate and any other rules that the host declares. After booking a rental property, Airbnb will collect the rental payment, deduct its service commission and pay the balance over to the host.
This means that Airbnb performs no property management services. The host is responsible for property taxes, property maintenance, cleaning and enforcement of any rules it sets for occupancy.
Under these circumstances, it is not clear that Airbnb could be held liable for damages to renters that result from the negligence of the host or contractors installing defective water heaters or other facilities.
What’s next for travelers using Airbnb?
One of the advantages for both hosts and renters is that Airbnb consolidates the business under one identifiable and marketable brand. Under the circumstances, customers might understandably (and wrongly) assume they are renting a property from Airbnb.
Unfortunately, tragedies like this highlight the need for more transparency and safety measures in the Airbnb industry. Airbnb and similar agencies provide increasingly popular services, but their regulation pales in comparison to hotel and motel operations.
When it comes to filing a wrongful death claim in Florida, learn about who is (and isn’t) eligible under state law.
Contact a Florida wrongful death attorney
At Lorenzo & Lorenzo, we understand that the death of a loved one is the most devastating injury someone can experience, especially when it’s caused by the negligence of another.
While nothing can replace what you’ve lost, the experienced wrongful death lawyers at Lorenzo & Lorenzo believe justice can help with the healing process. If you’ve lost a loved one due to someone’s negligent or careless actions, let our family help you through this difficult time and get you the compensation you deserve.