Woman Sues Airbnb After Claiming She Was Sexually Assaulted By A Host

The woman claims she was sexually assaulted by one of the company's 'superhosts'.

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A guest is reportedly suing online marketplace and hospitality service Airbnb for an alleged sexual assault, claiming she was attacked by a host who wasn't properly screened.

The Guardian reports that in a first-of-a-kind lawsuit, Leslie Lapayowker's case against the company – which was filed on Thursday – raises questions about the firm's legal responsibilities.

Lapayowker accuses Airbnb of negligence after it allowed her to rent a room in Los Angeles from a 'superhost' (a host with at least 80 per cent of reviews rated five stars) named Carlos Del Olmo, who has previously been accused of domestic violence.

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Lapayowker, a 51-year-old woman from New Mexico, told the publication: 'I don't want this to happen to other women.

'It was horrible, and I think that everybody should be warned that this could potentially happen to them or their daughter or their wife or their sister,' she added.

Lapayowker met Del Olmo in 2016 with the plan of renting a studio attached to his house for a month while looking for a permanent home.

Given Del Olmo was a 'verified' user and considered a 'superhost', Lapayowker admitted to the Guardian that she assumed she'd be in 'especially good hands'.

However, soon after she began renting the property, she alleges Del Olmo began making sexually suggestive comments, and once pounded on her windshield while she was in her car.

After three nights, Lapayowker informed Del Olmo she would be leaving the rental property. The 'superhost' then allegedly locked the door to the home and began masturbating in front of her, before shoving his tongue into her mouth despite her pleas for him to stop.

'I was completely in shock. I was totally numb,' Lapayowker recalled, saying she initially wasn't sure whether she should call the police. 'I was terrified he would find out where I live and come after me.'

Later that month, she reported the incident to the authorities and to Airbnb, which subsequently banned Del Olmo from the website.

According to Lapayowker's lawyer, Teresa Li, the police declined to file charges because they said there was not enough evidence (prosecutors did not immediately respond to requests for comment), but her lawyer later found that Del Olmo had once been arrested in Florida for a battery charge and domestic violence case.

'I was just furious. Why would they let somebody like this be a host?' asked Lapayowker.

An Airbnb spokesperson revealed the company runs background checks on all US hosts and guests, and searches for matches with terrorist watch lists, felony convictions, sex offender registries and 'significant misdemeanors'.

'The abhorrent behaviour described has no place in our community and we will not tolerate it. We have been trying to support her in any way we can and we will continue to do so,' the company said in a statement to the Guardian.

In response, Del Olmo told the publication he was unaware of the complaint and denied the asexual assault allegations, claiming the encounter with Lapayowker – who claims she's now suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder – was 'consensual'.

'This woman just fully lied and made everything up,' he said, adding that the alleged victim from his previous case in Florida also lied.

He also thought it was unfair for Airbnb to ban him from the website.

'Airbnb has no respect for the homeowner … who is the one putting themselves in a liability situation,' he added.

The case continues.

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