This ongoing case raises interesting questions about liability for injuries resulting from accidents at premises rented through Airbnb.
The group of friends concerned are reported to have been staying at the flat in Brighton, which they had rented through the holiday rental site Airbnb, and were celebrating the birthday of one of the group when the balcony at the premises sheared off. Four of the friends have had to have hospital treatment, including one who was reportedly impaled on an iron railing, after they fell from the balcony into the basement foot well.
It would appear that those injured are looking to Airbnb to provide them with compensation in relation to lost work, medical bills, psychological counselling and physiotherapy. However, it is unclear at this stage on what basis they argue that Airbnb should be liable for the accident.
The problems they will likely encounter in pursuing a claim against Airbnb, rather than or in addition to the owner of the premises, will be twofold. First, Airbnb insists that it operates solely as a platform on which independent hosts provide rooms for guests; it is not therefore a party to the bookings.
Secondly, under the Occupiers' Liability Act 1957, it is the occupier (being the person with control over the premises) who owes a common law duty of care to visitors in respect of dangers resulting from the state of the premises or from things done or omitted to be done on them. Generally then one would expect that liability for an act or omission would lie with the host, who places the premises on Airbnb.
It is reported that, at present, neither Airbnb nor the property owner have accepted liability. It remains to be seen what action the injured parties will choose to take but given the severity of the injuries sustained, and the likely losses suffered, one would anticipate that the claim will be pursued. Watch this space.