A Toronto man is suing Airbnb after being shot at a party at a rented house.
The 19-year-old Humber College student, Sean McCann, was shot in the pelvis on April 27 in the city’s Etobicoke region. He was taken to Sunnybrook Hospital and was released after four days, a press release on the legal action explained.
McCann is now seeking $5 million in damages against Airbnb, the homeowner, two women who rented the home and co-ordinated the “Airbnb mansion party,” and the shooter.
The statement of claim, filed at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, argues that the shooting “occurred as a direct result of the negligence of the defendants.”
Michael Smitiuch, the lawyer who filed the claim, said Airbnb should be more vigilant that homes can be rented for parties which have the potential to turn violent.
“There’s far too much focus on making money and far too little on proper policies and procedures to protect the safety of guests,” Smitiuch said in the release.
“This case is about accountability, before someone else gets hurt or worse.”
Airbnb responded with a statement that said, “senseless violence reported has no place in the Airbnb community.”
“We immediately removed the booking guest from our platform in April. While this listing has not been available on the Airbnb platform since September, hosting is a big responsibility and if we find that hosting activity substantially disrupts a community, we may take action against a listing — including suspension or removal,” the statement added.
Earlier in November, the company announced new policies to crack down on house parties hosted at Airbnb properties, after five people were killed at one in California.
Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said the company would expand its manual screening of “high risk” reservations and remove guests who fail to comply with policies banning parties at Airbnb rental homes.
He also said the company is forming a “rapid response team” when complaints of unauthorized parties come in.
Jordan Donich, a Toronto-based lawyer who isn’t involved in the Airbnb case, explained to Global News that issues over liability often come up within the sharing economy, which still relatively new.
“If you’re in an industry that’s not fully mature, you’re going to have litigation to determine the rules and sort out liability,” Donich said.
He added that this case names several parties that could be liable to cover the bases — it doesn’t necessarily mean Airbnb will be found responsible.
“They named Airbnb because that’s probably the prudent thing to do in the litigation, make sure you include all potential parties. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is going to be the running argument,” Donich said, explaining that Airbnb is also where the money could lie.
Donich said that Airbnb will likely argue that the host is most responsible, and it has fulfilled its responsibility by creating rules following the California shooting.
However, he also noted that creating rules for sharing economy companies is complex, because different countries and regions will have different demands.
“The rules may be different here in Ontario than in California, where the other incident happened,” he said.
“This is just part of the maturing of the sector.”
— With files from The Canadian Press