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Negligent Security on the Rise in the Era of ‘Online Hospitality Services’

Hotel, travel and tourism injuries rapidly increase with inadequate security and safety neglect on premises. Once again, Airbnb has been sued by a guest claiming another host at the property assaulted her. Of course, Airbnb and Vrbo do not do a background check which would have prevented this alleged sexual assault, nor do they have any security measures and typical keys, locks and door protection. This is a wide open area of vulnerability according to Leesfield & Partners Founding Partner, Ira Leesfield who chairs the American Association for Justice Resort Torts Litigation Group.

There are ongoing battle rages between the hotel/public accommodation industry and Airbnb about the increasing shift of travelers from traditional hotels to less protected “homey” environments.

Airbnb not only fails to check on the guest, but also does not run background check or security analysis of the host renters. The lawsuit filed by Leslie Lapayowker, and reported in The Guardian contends that a background check would have uncovered the fact that the owner had been arrested and charged with battery, and prevented from listing his property on Airbnb. The plaintiff alleges that she was held in a chair, against her will, as the host proceeded to masturbate in front of her.

Hotels and tourist accommodations have always faced serious problems with sexual assaults and criminal acts. Cruise ship, recreational resorts and tourist attractions invite a transient population with little or no security. Has anyone ever seen a uniform security guard on a cruise line with 6,000 passengers and crew members? A case similar to the Lapayowker allegations has also been brought in Madrid against an Airbnb host as well as a host in Japan and a property owner in England. Negligent maintenance of the premises have also been the basis for a number of injuries and deaths including a Texas Vrbo resident who fell on a tree limb and collapsed. Leesfield & Partners won a record-setting $40 million verdict on behalf of a young woman pummeled by a criminal in the hotel parking garage. He struck her face and body over 20 times leaving her malformed and practically dead.

A large number of Florida attractions have been warned and put on specific notice of hazards and danger associated with their failure to properly maintain, monitor and protect the host property. Everyone is familiar with the notorious alligator attack on Disney property which resulted in the death of a young child dragged into a lake by a ten-foot alligator.

A recent $10 million settlement was likewise obtained for the family of a young child who was electrocuted at a Central Florida property while playing miniature golf. “Injuries at theme parks and attractions are not uncommon,” according to Partner Tom Scolaro, who successfully completed a shark attack case where a young child was allowed to place her hand into a shark bowl in a Key West resort.

Travel injuries continue to rise as hotels and property owners cut back on security staff or safety measures. Recent results in carbon monoxide injuries and deaths at Florida hotels can be found here.

Typically, traveling families and individuals let their guard down when visiting a resort or hotel with the false belief that they are somehow being monitored and protected.

Surveillance cameras are now typical in places at vulnerable locations and these tapes oftentimes confirm the deterrent effect of having visible and proper security and security personnel.

Florida, with 19 million worldwide visitors, has seen every conceivable and preventable injury in aquatic, water sports, jet skiing, motor boating, scuba diving, parasailing, just to mention a few. The prepared and thoughtful traveler will carefully review the safety procedures and safety rules of vendors and be weary of blanket releases that may take thoughtless service providers off the hook.

It is hard to imagine how many unnecessary and preventable injuries and deaths occur annually because of hotel, tourism and public accommodation malfeasance. For a more comprehensive list, please go here.


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