I won my Airbnb lawsuit by default. Now how do I get my money?

When Yogendra Sagar complained to Airbnb about two stays in India it gave him the cold shoulder. So he sued the CEO — and won. Now Sagar wants to know how he can receive the payout that he won in his Airbnb lawsuit.

This story is a lesson in reading the terms and conditions of the company with which you have chosen to book, and in understanding that corporations actually are not equal in their treatment of their customers.

What happened here?

Sagar booked two different Airbnb rentals in India: The first rental cost him $143, and the second rental cost him $189. I’ll let Sagar tell us about the problems with each of the rentals:

One [was] out in the jungle which I did not request, with no mobile service or WiFi, and five staircases to climb. I have a bad knee and planning to have a knee replacement. The second was a shanty with terrible location and nightmare place. First one I paid $143 without staying for more than five minutes. The second was $189. This was a scam.

Sagar disputed the charges with Airbnb and his claim was denied. You might think his next step would be to escalate his claim, dispute the charge with his credit card company or contact us. But you would be wrong. Sagar filed a $300 claim in small claims court — against the CEO of Airbnb, Brian Chesky. He didn’t file the suit against the company or against Brian Chesky as the representative of the company — Sagar filed a personal claim against Chesky.

An Airbnb lawsuit

A notice of the hearing was mailed to Chesky, but he didn’t appear for the proceedings so the clerk entered a default judgment. This is when Sagar came to us. He wanted us to help him report Chesky to the three credit reporting agencies.

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We pointed him to the Airbnb contacts we list on our site and asked him to post his question in our forums, which he did. Our advocates who responded were less than supportive of his approach.

We have a few forum advocates who are practicing or retired attorneys. One of these is Joe Farrell. He initially asked Sagar to clarify if he sued both Chesky and Airbnb or if it was just Chesky. Had Sagar sued both the company and the CEO he might have collected from the company, but he didn’t — only the CEO was targeted.

When asked about his goal, Sagar said it “wasn’t about the money,” but instead was about the principle.

Defamation of character?

Farrell also pointed out that Sagar might have opened himself up to a lawsuit for defamation of character if Chesky suffers any personal damage because of the judgment and potential report to credit agencies. That’s when Farrell dropped the bomb: when Sagar chose to do business with Airbnb he agreed to its terms of service, which in Section 27, titled “Indemnification,” reads:

You agree to release, defend, indemnify, and hold Airbnb and its affiliates and subsidiaries, and their officers, directors, employees and agents, harmless from and against any claims, liabilities, damages, losses, and expenses, including, without limitation, reasonable legal and accounting fees, arising out of or in any way connected with (a) your access to or use of the Site, Application, Services, or Collective Content or your violation of these Terms; (b) your Member Content; (c) your (i) interaction with any Member, (ii) Booking of an Accommodation, or (iii) creation of a Listing; (d) the use, condition or Booking of an Accommodation by you, including but not limited to any injuries, losses, or damages (compensatory, direct, incidental, consequential or otherwise) of any kind arising in connection with or as a result of a Booking or use of an Accommodation; and (e) your participation in the Referral Program or your accrual of any Airbnb Travel Credits.

And in Section 34, it addresses Dispute Resolution

If you reside in the United States, you and Airbnb agree that any dispute, claim or controversy arising out of or relating to these Terms or the breach, termination, enforcement, interpretation or validity thereof, or to the use of the Services or use of the Site, Application or Collective Content (collectively, “Disputes“) will be settled by binding arbitration….

Sagar could have chosen followed the terms and conditions and requested arbitration. This might have gotten his money back, depending on the case he presented (he has never shared with us the details behind his refund request).

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Sagar violated both sections of the Airbnb terms to which he agreed when he filed suit against Chesky. Airbnb would have been within its rights to pursue action against Sagar and refuse to refund a single penny of his money.

Sagar didn’t like our advocates’ questions any more than he liked Airbnb’s initial refusal of his claim. In Sagar’s replies to our advocates he made inaccurate legal claims and accused our advocates of insulting and attacking him, and of simply having low opinions of other human beings.

Note to our readers: This is probably not the best approach to getting us to agree to help you.

In the end

A couple of our advocates also informed Sagar that when the words “attorney” and “lawsuit” are used, we cannot get involved. And if we are already involved when those words come up, we will step away.

This is when Sagar started deleting his comments and ran for the hills. Our moderators restored the posts and locked the thread. No more posting and no more deletions are possible, but it is still live.

In the end, Sagar’s use of our Airbnb contacts netted him a refund of $143 for the first of the two stays. He seems to have used our standard instructions of starting with the first contact, waiting a week, then moving up to the next contact, waiting an additional week, and repeating this process until the executive offices are reached.

Our last contact with him was an inquiry about whether we could help him get the other $189 back. Apparently it’s not just about the principle.

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Personal lawsuits against a corporate officer, personal attacks of our advocates and a desire to place a negative filing on someone’s personal credit report because he didn’t like the result of a business dispute: We’re done with this one.

Michelle Bell

Michelle worked in the travel and hospitality industry for almost two decades. Born in Germany, she has lived in 15 states and two foreign countries, and traveled to more than 35 countries. After living and working in Southeast Asia for several years, she now resides in New Orleans. Read more of Michelle Bell's articles here.

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