Airbnb Sued Over Deadly Halloween Shooting at Rental House

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The family of a man shot dead during a Halloween party at a Bay Area rental house sued Airbnb Monday claiming the vacation rental company should have known that large crowds, underage drinking and illegal activities frequently occurred there.

Javlin County, 29, of Marin City and Richmond, California, was one of five young people killed during what investigators described as a chaotic shootout involving multiple rival gangs at a Halloween house party in the sleepy suburban town of Orinda in the hills east of Oakland and Berkeley.

Contra Costa County Sheriff deputies investigate a multiple shooting in Orinda, Calif., on Oct. 31, 2019. Four people were killed and four others wounded. (Ray Chavez/East Bay Times via AP)

In addition to Airbnb, County’s mother, Alicia Bryant, and minor daughter, Gallilee Small-County, also sued Michael Young Wang and Wenlin Lou, owners of the home on Lucille Way where the house party and shooting occurred.

According to the lawsuit, the owners were cited and warned multiple times about potential violations of a local ordinance that limits the number of people who can occupy a short-term rental.

Multiple neighbors complained about disruptive parties held there in the past, and one neighbor reported seeing teenagers drinking at a house party there in February 2019, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

“Defendants, and each of them knowingly and intentionally promoted and/or encouraged violation of the law by authorizing the use of the subject property as a party house,” the 8-page complaint states.

Reached by email, an Airbnb spokesman said, “Our thoughts are with the victims of this senseless act of criminal violence.”

After the shooting took place, Airbnb announced it would ban “party houses” from its platform starting in 2020. The company also announced new guest standards that prohibit excessive noise and unauthorized guests, among other restrictions. Additionally, the company said it would create a 24/7 hotline for neighbors to call in with concerns about house rentals.

The San Francisco-based company said it would also launch a separate dedicated line for city officials to contact the company with questions and concerns.

Following the shooting, the city of Orinda in November 2019 passed a new law banning party house rentals.

A total of 10 people were shot at the party on Oct. 31, 2019, resulting in five deaths. The four other victims were Tiyon Farley, 22, of Antioch; Omar Taylor, 24, of Pittsburg; Raymon Hill Jr., 23, of San Francisco and Oakland; and Oshiana Thompkins, 19, of Vallejo and Hercules.

Investigators with the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department reported at least three men were armed at the party and rival gangs were involved.

Two men – Domico Michael Dones, of Martinez, and Frederick Johnson, of Vallejo, both 29 years old – were arrested on suspicion of murder and conspiracy related to the shooting. Both were charged with the less severe crimes of illegal possession of guns and ammunition. Johnson was also charged with child endangerment.

An estimated 100 people attended the gathering that was advertised on social media as a “mansion party.” Three people were injured trying to escape the carnage, including two people who leaped from a balcony in panic, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The lawsuit filed Monday claims Airbnb and the owners should have known such a tragic result was likely to occur based on past parties and illegal activities that took place at the rental house on prior occasions.

“Defendants, and each of them exhibited conduct that was despicable in that it was carried on with willful and conscious disregard for the rights and safety of others,” the complaint states.

County’s mother and daughter blame Airbnb and the homeowners for County’s death. They seek wrongful death damages and compensation for loss of financial support, love, companionship, comfort, moral support and guidance. 

The complaint alleges negligence and premises liability and seeks an unspecified amount of damages.

County’s family is represented by Christopher Dolan and Dianna Albini of the Dolan Law Firm.

Founded in 2008, Airbnb has 6,000 employees and earned $3.5 billion in revenue in 2018, according to Forbes.

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