Murdered woman's family sues Airbnb, property owner after her death

Image 1 of 6

The family of 36-year-old Carla Stefaniak, the American woman who was murdered while staying at an Airbnb in Costa Rica, is suing Airbnb and the owners of the villa where Stefaniak stayed.

They said that there were certain dangers and hazards at the vacation rental that was ignored by the company, putting guests in danger and ultimately leading to Stefaniak's murder.

The family also believes her death was completely preventable. In their lawsuit, they claim there was dishonesty in what exactly Stefaniak was signing up for when she booked the rental.

"A simple Google search was able to demonstrate there were a number of negative reviews, complaints that were made about this particular resort, about these particular owners and about this particular staff at the resort. Yet interestingly enough, there didn't appear to be the same negative reviews on Airbnb," said Jack Gordon, the family's lawyer.

The family's attorney believes negative reviews could have been removed from the Airbnb listing. The lawsuit also takes aim at the security guard accused of killing Stefaniak.

The family believes Bismark Espinosa Martinez's background was not properly looked into.

"The security guard was not even legally authorized to be in Costa Rica, he was in the county illegally. He certainly wasn't properly licensed as a security guard. He wasn't even authorized to be employed," said Gordon. "Yet he was provided with his own apartment directly next to where Carla was staying."

Gordon said Martinez was also handed master keys to all the rentals and given free roam of the property, putting guests in danger.  

"The error lies in facilitating and allowing the opportunity for the crime to occur," said Gordon.

In light of the lawsuit, Airbnb said in a statement to Fox 13:

"Our hearts are broken for Carla’s family, friends, and loved ones. We reached out to provide support to them during this unimaginably difficult time. We have also been in contact with Costa Rican and American law enforcement authorities, and we are standing by to support their investigation, as justice must be served quickly. The Villa Le Mas has been removed from the platform."

Stefaniak's family said more action should be taken. While the lawsuit will not bring her back, they hope their fight can prevent something this tragedy from happening again.

"If greater security measures are set in place as a result of these circumstances, then the family feels Carla's death wasn't in vain," said Gordon.

Fox 13 reached out to the owners of the villa, however, they did not immediately respond.