Online rental platform Airbnb has agreed to pay substantial damages to our client Mrs Wells, alongside the owners and managers of a holiday rental booked via Airbnb’s website. The settlement follows an incident in which Mrs Wells sustained life-changing injuries while staying at the property on holiday, resulting in an above-knee amputation to her left leg.

Mrs Wells required multiple surgeries both in Florida and after having been repatriated to her home country, the UK. Our International Injury team, led by partner Chris Deacon, acted for Mrs Wells, and instructed US attorneys Bob Parks and Gabriel Garay of Garay Law to lead the proceedings in Florida.


Background to the claim

While renting an Airbnb property in Florida, Mrs Wells slipped and fell on a mat in the property’s kitchen when re-entering from outside, sustaining a traumatic dislocation of the left knee and traumatic occlusion of her popliteal artery. After various surgeries in the US and upon Mrs Wells’ return to the UK, medical professionals discovered that the blood flow to her left leg was blocked and she required an above-knee amputation.

The circuit court of West Palm Beach County had previously dismissed Airbnb’s motion challenging jurisdiction, ruling that Mrs Wells could bring her claim against Airbnb and various other entities in Florida. Airbnb had argued in Wells vs Airbnb and Others that the platform’s terms and conditions required UK-resident plaintiffs to pursue any claim they have against Airbnb Ireland, in the Irish courts.

The judge concluded that a plaintiff injured in an Airbnb holiday rental in Florida booked via Airbnb’s online accommodation platform is entitled to sue the company in the Florida courts as this is where the incident took place. Accordingly, the judge dismissed Airbnb’s argument that the Irish court should exercise jurisdiction and set a timetable for the case to proceed to trial in Florida.


Reaching settlement

Mrs Wells compromised her claim in the months prior to the trial taking place and following the parties’ participation in various depositions and gathering of evidence, known as ‘discovery’ in US proceedings. During the discovery process, Mrs Wells’ legal team demonstrated that the mat was worn and should have been replaced before the incident, which would likely have avoided Mrs Wells’ life-changing injury and lower limb amputation. The mat had been disposed of by the holiday rental property managers following the incident, giving rise to potential issues of spoliation of evidence if the case had moved forward to trial.

The settlement will help Mrs Wells to meet her life-long needs, including a fully adapted property, paid care, specialist prosthetics and therapies. Mrs Wells loves travelling, within the UK and internationally, and has a passion for the water and swimming. The settlement will support Mrs Wells in her continued journey to life beyond injury.


What does this ruling mean for claimants bringing proceedings against Airbnb and vacation rental property managers?

Chris Deacon comments:

“The settlement represents a strong outcome for Mrs Wells, in circumstances where the evidence obtained through the litigation process revealed that this incident and Mrs Wells’ devastating injuries could have been avoided.

The way in which holiday rentals are advertised and sold to holidaymakers may seem straightforward at the time of booking, but when something goes wrong those impacted often quickly realise that a web of complex legal structures and entities sits behind the booking. This adds to the challenge of establishing who is legally responsible for what has happened. The outcome in Mrs Wells’ case demonstrates that, even with a booking via Airbnb, if the right enquiries are made following a serious incident at a holiday or short-term rental property it is possible to navigate through to a successful outcome.

It has been a privilege to represent Mrs Wells and her husband. The result we have secured for Mrs Wells was achieved through close collaboration with Bob Parks and Gabriel Garay of Garay Law and, most importantly the tenacity and resilience of our clients and those supporting them.”



Mrs Wells comments: “Right from the start when I met Chris and the Stewarts team, I realised they would go the extra mile to support and be there for their clients. I always felt very well protected and cared for, and was touched especially when Chris came to meet me early in the process. He emphasised how important it was that we had an in-person conversation and went out of his way to assure my husband and I when we felt nervous and anxious.

Chris and the team have been incredibly good at returning our calls and kept us updated far more quickly than most lawyers. They have been very caring and reasonable and worked very hard for us. I would highly recommend Stewarts and, if I could, I would welcome having Chris as my lawyer on all manner of cases.”

Gabriel Garay added: “We’ve been fortunate to work with great lawyers from all over the world. Chris and his team at Stewarts are the best of the best. Catastrophic injury cases are complex. Chris did a phenomenal job guiding the client through those complexities. It is critical to understand the medicine involved. Stewarts made sure we were in the best position to present the full scope of the client’s condition – not just presently but where she would be 10, 20, or even 40 years down the road. We look forward to working with Chris again.”



You can find further information regarding our expertise, experience and team on our  International Injury page.

If you require assistance from our team, please contact us.



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