Family sues Airbnb after 19-month-old dies of fentanyl toxicity during Florida vacation
Category: News & PoliticsVia: perrie-halpern • 3 weeks ago • 1 comments
By: Marlene Lenthang
The family of a 19-month-old who died after being exposed to fentanyl, allegedly at an Airbnb property in Florida, is suing the vacation rental company over the toddler's death.
Enora Lavenir died Aug. 7, 2021, while her family was staying at a rental in Wellington, Florida, during a visit from France, the family said in a wrongful death lawsuit filed in Palm Beach County Court.
The toddler died of acute fentanyl toxicity and the manner was ruled as accidental by the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner's Office.
However, it's not clear how the child ingested the fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, or where it came from.
The lawsuit alleges that while the Airbnb listing advertised the unit as a "peaceful place to stay," it had a history of being used as a party house. Days before the French family arrived, according to the complaint, someone threw a party where drugs were consumed.
Enora was exposed to fentanyl residue left in the rental, according to the suit, which accuses Airbnb, the rental property's owner, the property manager and a prior guest of negligence in the child's death.
How Enora died
Enora's mother, Lydie Lavenir, booked the four-bedroom, two-bath lake house in the affluent residential neighborhood from Aug. 6 to Aug. 9, 2021, for a family vacation for herself, her husband and their five children, the suit says.
The family checked into the rental property on Aug. 6. Enora played and relaxed with her siblings and took a nap with her older sister on one of the beds of the home the following morning.
More than an hour into the toddler's nap, Lydie Lavenir went to check on her and "found her unresponsive and foaming at the mouth," prompting cries and screams for help, according to the suit, which was filed in December.
She performed chest compressions on the child and the family called 911. Enora was taken to HCA Florida Palms West Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Enora's father, Boris, recalled the terror of hearing his wife when she found their daughter unresponsive.
Lydie Lavenir and Boris Lavenir.NBC News
"Then I heard, 'Enora is dead! Enora is dead,'" he told NBC Nightly News.
A medical examiner report found that Enora had a "lethal level of fentanyl" in her blood — a drug her parents said they never heard of prior to her death.
Overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, have taken a staggering toll on the U.S., with more than 56,000 people dying from overdoses in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of overdose deaths involving such drugs that year was more than 18 times the number of deaths in 2013.
After months of investigation, it is not clear where the fentanyl that killed Enora came from.
"There were no signs of any narcotic medications or any illegal narcotics at the crime scene and her death was listed as accidental," the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office said in an incident report.
Enora's case is now closed pending viable leads, according to the sheriff's office.
The medical examiner's investigation report says that the parents tested negative for drugs and Enora's formula also tested negative.
In the sheriff's office report, investigators said a resident of the neighborhood reported there had been a "large party" at the scene two nights before the Lavenir family's arrival. The report also says investigators were advised that there had been "several parties and rentals prior to the family's stay at the location."
Family accuses Airbnb of 'negligence,' says rental was a 'party house'
The suit alleges that Airbnb failed to ensure the property was safe for the Lavenir family.
Though Airbnb says parties and drugs are prohibited at their rentals, the company failed to issue a warning about risks and ensure spaces are properly sanitized, according to the suit.
"In reality, the subject premises had a history of being used as a party house and had just days earlier hosted a group of approximately a dozen adults who used cocaine and other drugs, including but not limited to fentanyl throughout the home," the suit says.
It further alleges that Airbnb's cleaning procedures are "inadequate to decontaminate a property and eliminate the risk" from drugs or residue.
Airbnb had a duty to take reasonable care of the safety of its guests and provide a rental free of drugs and residue left behind from previous guests and to provide sufficient warning of the risk of harm, according to the suit.
An Airbnb spokesperson offered condolences to Enora's family in a brief statement that did not mention the suit.
"Our hearts go out to the Lavenir family and their loved ones for their devastating loss," the spokesperson said.
The Lavenir family's booking was the first time the property had ever been booked via Airbnb, but it had been leased out on other rental sites.
The complaint also accuses the rental's owner, Ronald M. Cortamilia, and its manager, Yulia A. Timpy, who controlled bookings, as well as prior guest Aaron Kornhauser, who booked the space via Vrbo vacation rentals, of negligence.
The suit says days before the Lavenir family's check-in date, Aaron Kornhauser was visiting Palm Beach County for a concert. He rented the property from July 30 to Aug. 1, 2021, for six adults. However, Kornhauser ended up staying there with 11 other adults, according to the complaint. He brought or permitted others to bring "illicit drugs" including cocaine, fentanyl and marijuana, which were consumed throughout the premises including the bedrooms and kitchen counter, the lawsuit alleges.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office incident report indicates investigators interviewed Kornhauser, who said individuals in the residence used cocaine and marijuana but not fentanyl. He told authorities he could not explain how fentanyl would have gotten into the residence.
In a reply to the complaint, an attorney for Kornhauser said "the negligence of the parents of the decedent was the sole or a contributing proximate cause of the alleged injuries and damages."
The attorney claimed the damages in the complaint were caused by the negligence of other parties Kornhauser had no control over and can't be liable for, including the co-defendants and anyone present in the property such as cleaners or subsequent renters.
An attorney for Cortamilia, the property owner, also cast blame on the parents, saying "the negligence and careless conduct of the parents of the decedent was the sole or a contributing proximate cause of the alleged damages."
NBC News asked attorneys for Kornhauser and Vrbo for comment but did not hear back. A lawyer for Cortamilia did not have further comment. Timpy, the manager, does not have an attorney listed in online court records. Attempts to reach Timpy were unsuccessful.
Authorities tried to speak with previous renters and talked to neighbors but were ultimately unable to determine how Enora ingested the fentanyl and where the drug came from, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office incident report.
Lavenir family attorney, Thomas Scolaro, said the family remains "devastated" in the wake of losing their daughter and hopes to draw attention to the dangers of fentanyl.
"Fentanyl is incredibly potent. So you're only talking about a couple of grains of salt-size particles, which would result in this level of toxicity to a 19-month-old baby," he said.
"I'm not surprised that the sheriff's office did not find a vast reserve of fentanyl in the unit," Scolaro added. "But what we do know based on the timeline, and based on the statements from these prior renters, is there were drugs in that unit and the child was not exposed anywhere else, period. There's literally no other conceivable place this child could have encountered this fentanyl but in that rental home."
How terrible for the family.