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Illinois Federal Judge Rejects AirBnB’s Arbitration Request

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Illinois Federal Judge Rejects AirBnB’s Arbitration Request

On Friday, November 20, 2020, an Illinois federal judge issued a ruling declaring Airbnb ineligible to impose arbitration in a lawsuit brought by a family against the reservation platform. The family sued Airbnb, Inc., and hosts of the property after they were assaulted, robbed, and held hostage for three hours by a masked gunman. They claimed that the home invasion and assault was an inside job, allegedly set up by the property’s security guards. The Judge also ruled that the ongoing litigation should be undertaken in Arkansas.

The robbery-assault occurred when said family – including two sisters, their spouses, and a toddler – was visiting in Argentina to attend a wedding. Their lawsuit gives a detailed description of the events transpiring on the night of the incident at an Airbnb farmhouse outside Buenos Aires. The family is seeking a minimum damages award of $1.5 million for each family member who endured the harrowing experience, accusing Airbnb of liability for racketeering and negligence.

The complaint states, “Plaintiffs were assaulted, battered, robbed and traumatized, causing physical, emotional and financial damage.” It continued, “The security company was hired by defendant hosts and farm club. The two security guards had not been held hostage, nor injured and, on information and belief, were considered accomplices.”

According to the allegation, “Airbnb has mushroomed into a platform that provides for commercial landlords and multi-property agents to earn substantial income operating de facto hotels while violating commercial laws and regulations promulgated for the safety of patrons.”

The company allegedly failed to secure the plaintiffs’ safety, which ultimately led to trauma, as stated in the complaint.

Gary Feinerman — US District judge — rejected Airbnb’s motion to move the dispute to arbitration. However, he permitted the case to be transferred to the Western District of Arkansas. The company will then have an opportunity to petition its request for arbitration with the Judge conducting the plaintiff’s case.

U.S. Judge Gary Feinerman ruled that although Argentina “is home to most of the key evidence” in the family’s personal injury lawsuit, Arkansas is home for the only two family members who reside in the U.S. full-time. Feinerman also noted Arkansas is the state where some family members received medical care for their alleged invasion injuries, and from which the Airbnb reservation was initially confirmed.

“The locations where each plaintiff agreed to Airbnb’s terms of service could also be significant, and it appears that no plaintiff did so in this district,” he said.