NEW ORLEANS — Parents of three young adults are planning to file a lawsuit against Airbnb, after their children died in one while on vacation.
Two of them were school teachers in New Orleans.
It was Halloween weekend, and three friends who traveled together often decided to spend it celebrating the Mexican Day of the Dead. So, they rented an Airbnb in a high-rise apartment in Mexico City, but never returned home.
“We will never have the opportunity to talk to, to laugh with, or comfort our children," said Jennifer Marshall, Jordan’s mother. "Their lives could have been saved by a $30 carbon monoxide detector."
The parents of New Orleans school teachers Jordan Marshall, 28, and Courtez Hall, 33, along with the parents of Virginia Beach entrepreneur Kandace Florence, 28, want change after their children died in an Airbnb in Mexico city.
It happened Oct. 30. The long-time friends were on vacation. A carbon monoxide leak from the hot water heater in the short term rental was the cause, according to the family.
“This should send a shock wave through this country. Elected officials should be stepping up demanding why isn't this mandated,” said the families’ attorney Chris Stewart, of Stewart, Miller, Simmons Law Firm in Atlanta.
So, with their attorneys, the families want Airbnb to mandate that its seven million rentals worldwide have working carbon monoxide detectors. They say there are already rules like no parties in the rentals and that the company knows it's a problem because of similar deaths and lawsuits from several other countries.
“One year before this, in Mexico, in Guadalajara, a young woman from California, who had graduated from UCLA, was killed by carbon monoxide poisoning,” said Michael Haggard, of the Florida-based Haggard Law Firm.
The grieving families' goal is that no other parent suffer the same loss.
“He loved people. He loved his mom. He loved his family, loved friends, would give you the shirt off his back. He loved to sing. He loved to, he loved church,” said Ceola Hall, Courtez’s mother.
During the COVID pandemic, Kandace moved back to her parents’ home to save money and started a soy candle business with uplifting messages on them.
“She said, ‘OK, affirmations. I'm going to give people something, some kind of hope in this time.’ Tragically, my baby is not here to share her affirmations anymore,” Freida Florence said of her daughter Kandace.
Thursday, her mom gifted her daughter's creations to the other mothers and left everyone with her own message.
“Hold tight to your children. Love them, because you may blink your eye and they're gone,” she said through tears.
On the website it only suggests the use of carbon monoxide detectors for its listings. The listing for the apartment where the three died, has been removed.
An Airbnb spokesperson told WWL-TV that they have suspended the listing and cancelled all upcoming reservations at that location while they investigate. They have also been in touch with the US Embassy.
“This is a terrible tragedy, and our thoughts are with the families and loved ones as they grieve such an unimaginable loss," an Airbnb spokesperson said. "Our priority right now is supporting those impacted as the authorities investigate what happened, and we stand ready to assist with their inquiries however we can.”
They also listed the following on CO exposure in rentals:
- While we are not able to confirm the reports of possible CO exposure, we can convey the following regarding our work on this subject: Our global teams work each and every day to promote safe travel for our community. We run a global detector program, giving away combined smoke and CO detectors at no cost to all eligible Hosts. To date, over 200,000 Hosts globally have ordered a detector through this program.
- In Mexico, Airbnb has worked with the Secretariat of Comprehensive Risk Management and Civil Protection of Mexico City to launch an information campaign aimed at Hosts to promote safety best practices. In addition, we introduced updates to our free global smoke and CO detector program to expedite shipments for Hosts in Mexico.
- We encourage all Hosts to confirm that they have a smoke and CO detector installed, and homes that report having a detector are clearly marked, so this information is visible to guests. Guests can also filter listings by homes that report having them. If a guest books a listing where a Host has not yet reported detectors present, we flag this so they’re aware and can take precautionary steps as needed.