Orinda shootings: Who will pay for ‘Airbnb Mansion Party’ deaths, injuries?

Orinda shootings: Who will pay for ‘Airbnb Mansion Party’ deaths, injuries?

This is another knife in the back where Venture Capital creates billions in values while impacting the most valuable asset of everyone, everywhere that being our children.  
A Halloween night “Airbnb Mansion Party” in Orinda went horribly wrong with a shooting that left four people dead and several others injured.
What responsibility will lie with Airbnb, the highly valued short-term-stay company that brokered the house rental; or with the renter who hosted the party; or with Michael Wang and Wenlin Lou, the home’s owners, who said their rental listing banned parties?
When it comes to criminal liability, all are likely off the hook.
Darryl Stallworth, a former Alameda County prosecutor who is now a criminal defense attorney, said he doubts there will be any criminal liability involving the homeowner, renter or anyone other than the shooter and his or her accomplices.
“I think it would be extremely unlikely,” Stallworth said. “They would have to know or anticipate something happening. What people do in your house is not your responsibility.”
Criminal liability can arise, for example, if a homeowner knew a wall had a history of failing and then attendees were killed by the wall, he said. In the case of a shooting, liability could arise if a homeowner or renter knew there would be shooting or fighting and still rented the space out or invited people.
Even the person who rented the house is unlikely to face criminal charges for the shooting, even if they may have lied about not planning to hold a party.

“Being deceptive and not truthful for their reason of why they are renting doesn’t get you to criminal charges,” Stallworth said.
The parties would have to have done something “extremely reckless” to face criminal charges, according to Stallworth.
“Individuals are generally not liable for the criminal conduct of third parties,” said Daniel Bornstein, a real estate lawyer in San Francisco.
However, civil liability is a whole different matter.
“Someone will have to compensate someone for the harm that was generated in that house,” Bornstein said. He expects lawsuits against multiple defendants, including Airbnb, the owners and the person who rented the space. “This is a perfect storm of the risk you face when you arbitrage your house on Airbnb,” he said. “You may be ‘sharing’ with people who you don’t know from a hole in the head.”
It would be natural for any litigant to go after Airbnb, one of the most highly valued private companies in the world. Worth $35 billion in the private markets, the San Francisco company has said it will file to go public next year.
Airbnb provides two types of insurance-like vehicles to pay claims. Each has a $1 million cap and each has numerous terms and conditions. Its Host Guarantee covers damages to a host’s property, while its Host Protection Insurance covers liability claims brought by third parties over bodily injury or property damage that occurs during a stay.
Airbnb’s host forums have hundreds of comments from hosts saying the guarantees are riddled with loopholes and the company stonewalls attempts to collect. Airbnb referred questions about this to its website.
Online, Airbnb says “damage or injury from something done intentionally (not an accident)” is excluded, which could mean an intentional shooting is not covered.
But even assuming its guarantee does pay out, the $1 million cap on liability seems meager for the loss of four lives and numerous injuries.
A big question for the homeowners Wang and Lou will be whether they bought commercial insurance to cover using the house as a short-term rental. Standard homeowner policies generally exclude commercial activities.
Andy Schwartz, a Walnut Creek civil attorney, said without all the facts it’s hard to determine if any of the parties would face civil liability, but there are red flags.
“That’s the problem with unregulated industries such as Airbnb and Uber. There is very little, if any, oversight,” Schwartz said. “Airbnb makes it easy to rent out your house and then takes their share of the proceeds but does absolutely no vetting of the renters. It appears to me that both the homeowner and Airbnb face potential liability depending upon what we learn, once the facts are sorted out.”
Airbnb can kick renters off its marketplace after learning that they caused trouble. It also checks if guests are on terrorist or criminal lists, but only if the guest’s full name and date of birth are known.

Matthias Gafni and Carolyn Said are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. Email: matthias.gafni@sfchronicle.com csaid@sfchronicle.com Twitter @mgafni @csaid


Operator of an online property rental marketplace designed to offer short-term travel stays. The company's platform helps users to list, discover and book short term accommodations around the world, enabling users to book unique travel experiences in more than 65,000 cities and 191 countries.
Formerly Known As
AirBed & Breakfast
Ownership Status
Privately Held (backing)
Financing Status
Venture Capital-Backed
Primary Industry
Other Restaurants, Hotels and Leisure
Other Industries
Application Software
Primary Office
  • 888 Brannan Street
  • 4th Floor
  • San Francisco, CA 94103
  • United States

+1 (855) 000-0000

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