South Florida Court Begins Hearing AirBnB Case; Lawsuit Will Test Law that Shields Tech Companies from Liability
On December 10th, 2018, a court in South Florida began hearing the opening arguments in a landmark case against the tech giant Airbnb. The lawsuit — which was filed by a Colorado-based real estate investment trust (REIT) called Aimco — challenges Airbnb’s ability to shield itself from being held liable for the content posted by its users.
As reported by the Washington Examiner, this litigation is receiving some national attention as it is a big test of the limits of the Communications Decency Act (CDA). Notably, Section 230 of the CDA grants broad third party immunity to tech companies. Here, our Miami business law attorneys provide an overview of what is at stake in this case.
The Prohibited Conduct: Short Term Leases
Aimco is a billion dollar real estate investment company that employs more than 1,200 people. The firm owns and leases property all over the country, including in Miami, Florida. In many of its buildings, Aimco requires its tenants to sign an agreement that prohibits them from listing their units on Airbnb and on other vacation rental or short-term leasing websites.
The Issue: Who Can Be Held Liable for this Breach?
Tenants are bound by the terms of their lease agreement. Commercial and residential landlords can take action against tenants that violate the terms of their lease, including tenants that violate a provision restricting short-term rentals. There is no legal dispute regarding that issue.
However, Aimco — and some other firms in a similar position — want to hold Airbnb and other vacation rental websites legally liable for the conduct of tenants. In support of its claim, Aimco has submitted evidence to the Florida court indicating that more than 12,000 Airbnb customers have rented units at Aimco properties in Miami alone since 2013.
These rentals were largely prohibited by the leasing agreements Aimco tenants signed. The company is alleging that Airbnb should be held responsible for keeping these properties off of its website. For its part, Airbnb counters that it requires all of the people listing units on its service to abide by the terms of third party agreements when they sign up. Airbnb denies any liability for third party conduct.
The Law: Section 230 Communications Decency Act (CDA)
Ultimately, this case will come down to the court’s view of the limits of Section 230 Communications Decency Act (CDA). Thus far, courts have interpreted this law in a broad manner: it is very difficult to hold tech companies liable for the content posted by users.
They are generally shielded under the CDA. Notably, Aimco has already lost a similar lawsuit against Airbnb that was filed in California. Our legal team will keep a close watch on any developments in this case We always stay up to date on the latest laws and decisions affecting landlords in South Florida.
Get Help From Our South Florida Business Lawyers
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, we are proud to represent companies in Miami, West Palm Beach, and all around South Florida. No matter your legal needs, you can turn to us for top quality representation. To schedule an immediate review of your case, please reach out to our law offices today.