Relatives of a Florida woman slain in Costa Rica are suing vacation rental giant Airbnb and the resort where she was vacationing when she died.
Carla Stefaniak’s family filed the lawsuit Thursday in Hillsborough County.
Their attorney Jeffrey “Jack” Gordon said there’s no price tag on the loss of a loved one but they’re hoping the suit will spur change in company policy.
“It will force Airbnb to take greater action to protect its customers,” Gordon said.
The lawsuit says the Villa le Mas resort and Airbnb failed to conduct a background check on a Nicaraguan security guard who was in Costa Rica illegally.
Authorities in the Central American country said the guard killed Stefaniak on Nov. 28 after she returned alone to the apartment she rented through Airbnb.
“He was provided a uniform giving him the cloak of authority. He was given unfettered discretion to go anywhere he wanted within the premises and he shouldn’t have been there to begin with,” Gordon said.
Airbnb has removed Villa le Mas from its rental properties website. Villa Le Mas’ attorney has said the resort’s owners are cooperating with investigators.
The lawsuit says both companies also failed to alert customers to U.S. State Department warnings about violent crime in Costa Rica.
“A business owner can not stick his head in the sand like an ostrich and pretend he doesn’t know about a dangerous condition,” Gordon said.
Airbnb mentioned nothing about being sued after News Channel 8 requested a statement concerning the lawsuit.
A spokesperson said in the statement:
Our hearts are broken for Carla’s family, friends, and loved ones. We reached out to provide support to them during this unimaginably difficult time. We have also been in contact with Costa Rican and American law enforcement authorities, and we are standing by to support their investigation, as justice must be served quickly. The Villa Le Mas has been removed from the platform.
“An apology is nice but action is more important,” Gordon said.
Stefaniak lived in Miami before her death. She was a resident of Tampa from 2000 to 2012, family members told News Channel 8. Stefaniak’s relatives live in Riverview.