A 19-year-old who was shot at a Toronto “mansion party” hosted in an Airbnb rental is now suing the company, the property owner and the event’s alleged organizers.
“It felt like someone had just stabbed something through me,” said Sean McCann, recalling the moment he was struck by gunfire. “It was a sting and a burn and then just a lot of pain.”
McCann attended the party in Toronto’s west end on April 26 after one of his friends saw an ad on social media charging cover for the event, which was hosted at a mansion in Etobicoke.
He and his friends had just finished the school year at Humber College and were looking to blow off some steam.
Shortly after arriving, McCann said he started to feel uneasy; his group decided to leave less than an hour later.
“People were smoking in the house, throwing beer cans and stuff. They were just trashing the house and it was gross,” McCann said.
“People were fighting and pushing each other around and it just didn’t seem great. There was one person I saw with a knife and that’s when we said, ‘You know what, let’s go,'” he said.
McCann said it took a while for him and his friends to make their way through the crowded house. But then they spotted a friend in the backyard and went to say hello.
Once outside, they heard shots ring out.
“I only counted until I actually got hit, which was about four. But everyone I talked to said there was at least six afterwards,” McCann said.
The bullet entered his lower back, fractured his pelvis and came out through his groin, causing nerve damage and a lot of blood loss, McCann said.
People ran to escape out the back; McCann’s friends helped him over the fence and down a retaining wall.
Prior to the shooting, police had already been called to the scene because of a noise complaint. They quickly found McCann, who was rushed to hospital. He woke up there with his parents at his bedside.
“The doctors said if it had been an inch to the left, I would have been paralyzed, and an inch to the right, they said I probably would have died. And two inches down or something, I would’ve lost the use of my right leg,” said McCann. “I got very lucky … and I’m just thankful for that.”
McCann doesn’t appear to have been the intended target.
Lawsuit alleges negligence
In a lawsuit filed Thursday in Ontario Superior Court, McCann alleges the shooting was the direct result of negligence on the part of Airbnb, the property owner and the party organizers.
He is seeking $5 million in damages.
In a statement of claim, McCann alleges Airbnb “failed to investigate, vet and conduct background checks” on the person renting the property and the guest who booked it.
It also alleges the property owner, Wojciech Stasieczek, failed to vet his guests, “knew or ought to have known that the renters of the premises were using his minimally furnished rental property to throw large parties,” and that he “allowed the opportunity for violence and crime to occur.”
The lawsuit also alleges the purported party organizers — Isabella Ibrahim and two people identified only as Jane Doe and John Doe — “allowed the opportunity for violence and crime to occur” through a “lack of security and background checks for the guests.”
When asked for comment about the lawsuit, Airbnb replied with a statement.
“The senseless violence reported has no place in the Airbnb community and we immediately removed the booking guest from our platform in April,” it said. “While this listing has not been available on the Airbnb platform since September, hosting is a big responsibility and if we find that hosting activity substantially disrupts a community, we may take action against a listing — including suspension or removal.”
Neither Stasieczek nor Ibrahim responded to repeated requests for comment.
After the shooting, Toronto’s police chief tweeted that officers arrested two teenagers carrying guns. But no one has yet been charged. The Toronto Police Service says the investigation into the shooting remains active and open.
The April 26 event wasn’t the first time that particular house had been rented out for parties.
McCann’s statement of claim alleges “the premises was used for parties and large gatherings” on multiple occasions. Multiple neighbours also told CBC News loud parties continued well after the spring shooting.
According to 311 records, there have been three complaints about the property in the last year. The most recent came in late August.
Violent incidents at Airbnb rentals
In the last year, there have been at least 10 violent incidents connected to Airbnb rentals in Canada.
Earlier this year, Airbnb announced plans to ban so-called “party houses” from its platform after an Oct. 31 shooting in Orinda, Calif., left five people dead. Nearly 100 guests were packed into a rental house that had been advertised for 12.
Starting next month, Airbnb will expand screening in its North American market for what it calls “high-risk reservations.” This review will “help identify suspicious reservations and stop unauthorized parties before they start,” it said.
But McCann says the company should have acted earlier than that Halloween incident.
“It’s too little, too late. Like, I survived, but a lot of people haven’t,” he said. “They need to do something to make up for everything that they ignored, and I think what happened in California on Oct. 31 shouldn’t have been the point where they had to say, ‘OK, let’s stop this.’
“It needs to stop.”
Canadian cities change Airbnb rules
Cities across Canada have been grappling with complaints around short-term rentals made available through platforms like Airbnb.
In April 2018, Vancouver brought in new rules requiring all people renting their homes and condos on a short-term basis to register with the city. It says 80 per cent of Vancouver’s short-term rentals are now licensed and there has been a dramatic drop in complaints.
Last week, an Ontario appeal body ruled in favour of new bylaws for Toronto that will see short-term rentals only permitted in a host’s principal residence, licences required for all operators and limits placed on how long a space can be rented out.
This week, Ottawa city council followed Toronto’s lead and greenlit a similar set of rules for short-term rental companies.