The families of three African-Americans who died from carbon monoxide poisoning while they were vacationing in Mexico, have filed a liability lawsuit against the international homestay service that provided the apartment for their stay. The lawyers say the company had prior knowledge that people died in units from the odorless killer and still did not require hosts to use the devices.
On Thursday, Dec. 1, over a month after Jordan Marshall, 28, Kandace Florence, 28, and Courtez Hall, 31, were found dead in an apartment they were renting in Mexico, their families are taking legal action and calling for accountability from Airbnb for the preventable tragedy.
The victim’s families have hired attorneys Michael Haggard and L. Chris Stewart, who has represented the families of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, to represent them in the litigation.
In addition to holding Airbnb accountable for the deaths, they are pushing for a court to mandate the installation of a carbon monoxide detector in every unit the brand rents out.
The three young people had gone to the Mexico City vacation destination to celebrate “Día de Muertos.” According to WGNO, days after their arrival, on Sunday, Oct. 30, the two high school friends and New Orleans native died from inhaling the toxic gas.
On the day that she died, Florence told her boyfriend via telephone she wasn’t feeling well. The phone call dropped while they were talking and when the boyfriend tried to contact her again, he was unsuccessful. After calling the rental’s host, authorities discovered all three dead in the unit.
Stewart said the carbon monoxide was caused by a broken water heater on the property.
The night before the lawsuit announcement, the mothers, Jennifer Marshall, Freida Florence, and Ceola Hall appeared on “NBC Nightly News,” delivering their first public appearance together since the death of their millennial children.
“I cannot process in my mind why my daughter is not here today,” said Freida Florence, Kandace’s mother. “There is no excuse. There is no excuse, it cost $30. If I had known, I would have bought it for her.”
According to Stewart, Airbnb regulates various things, including guns and parties, and believes the alarm should have been another safety measure implemented by the corporate office.
Stewart said this is not about money, at a press conference announcing the lawsuit. For his clients, it is about safety and the broken trust in Airbnb the public has.
“It’s inexcusable,” the lawyer said. “Airbnb had prior knowledge that guests were dying from carbon monoxide poisoning. There’s been previous lawsuits.”
He continued, “What we don’t want to hear is the excuse [that’s being made right now], that ‘we give out or we suggest carbon monoxide detectors to people who list their property.’ That ends now. We are demanding that Airbnb mandate carbon monoxide protectors in every listing that they have.”
During the news conference, the lawyer said, “This isn’t about money. This isn’t about excuses from Airbnb. … We’re here today because these families have lost their loved ones, and we’re trying to protect everybody else because anybody could die in this situation.”
While it isn’t about money for the families that have lost their loved ones, money is what moves big corporations, the lawyer said to NBC. “They only speak money, which is why this lawsuit is coming,” Stewart said.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Airbnb said, “This is a terrible tragedy, and our thoughts are with the families and loved ones as they grieve such an unimaginable loss. 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.”
The company also revealed the Mexico City listing has been suspended and that it has been working with the U.S. Embassy since the deaths.
The representative went on to say Airbnb has a global detector program and gives away smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to hosts who are eligible, submitting that they have supplied more than 200,000 hosts around the world with detectors and have encouraged them to always utilize them in their units.
Marshall commented saying this is not enough.
“We can never get our babies back. But we really want to ensure that no other family has to deal with this,” she said. “The way that we lost our children, I mean, it’s devastating. You go from grief to rage because this could have so easily been avoided.”
All three young people were excited about their lives, family members say. Marshall and Hall were both teachers in New Orleans and Florence was a small business owner from Virginia Beach. Florence and Marshall grew up together and remained best of friends until their untimely demise on the holiday weekend.