WELLINGTON — A couple from the French islspannd of Guspandeloupe is suing the Airbnb vacation-home rental company and the owner of a Wellington property after the death of their 19-month-old daughter from a fentspannyl overdose during a family vacation in South Florida.
According to a wrongful death complaint filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, Lydie and Boris Lavenir were staying at a four-bedroom, two-bath lake house with their five children in August 2021 when their toddler, Enora, was exposed to a lethal dose of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid drug that has been produced illegally, often sold and combined with other drugs.
The lawsuit also lists the Wellington property’s rental manager and a man who rented the home days before the Lavenir family, alleging that the home was was not properly cleaned after being used to host a party in which fentanyl and other illicit drugs were present.
The home is along The 12th Fairway, a residential area off Forest Hill Boulevard west of the Mall at Wellington Green.
The case is pending before Circuit Judge Maxine Cheesman and has not been scheduled for trial.
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Medical examiner: Acute fentanyl toxicity killed 19-month-old in Wellington
According to the lawsuit, Enora Lavenir was napping with her older sister the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2021, when the toddler’s mother “went to check on Enora and found her unresponsive and foaming at the mouth.”
Enora was rushed to Palms West Hospital in Royal Palm Beach, where she was pronounced dead.
The Palm Beach County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled that the cause of death was acute fentanyl toxicity and listed it as an accident. The injury occurred from the child ingesting the fentanyl, a medical examiner’s report said. A Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office incident report did not indicate how the toddler was exposed to the drug.
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“I am currently unable to determine how the child Enora Lavenir ingested the fentanyl, therefore I am unable to develop probable cause for abuse or neglect leading to the death of Enora,” a PBSO detective wrote in the most recent report.
A walkthrough of the property following the child’s death revealed no illicit drugs and the toddler’s parents both tested negative for drugs, PBSO said. The agency closed its investigation pending new information, PBSO spokesperson Teri Barbera said Monday.
Fentanyl is also used to treat severe pain from cancer or patients recovering from surgery. Palm Beach County had the second-most number of fatal opioid overdoses in Florida in 2021 with 525 deaths, including three children under the age of 2 who died in the second half of the year, state records show.
In an interview with The Washington Post conducted in French, Boris Lavenir said: “What is certain is, Enora had contact with fentanyl in the Airbnb.”
Attorney: Child ‘was always inside that Airbnb’ during visit to Florida
The child’s death occurred just one day after the family traveled to South Florida from their home in Guadualoupe, a French overseas region in the southern Caribbean. Thomas Scolaro, the family’s Miami-based attorney, said the toddler remained in the vacation home from the moment the family checked in until she was rushed to the hospital.
“This baby never left the unit,” he said, speaking on the family’s behalf. “She was always inside that Airbnb. She didn’t go outside. They didn’t travel with her. So she was exposed inside that Airbnb unit, 100 percent.”
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However, attorneys for the homeowner and the man who previously rented the home argued in written filings that negligent and careless conduct by the toddler’s parents was either the sole factor or a contributing cause in the child’s death.
In addition, the attorney representing the previous renter argued that his client cannot be liable for acts that occurred after he left the home, including its cleaning or subsequent rental by others.
The prior renter told PBSO investigators that about 10 to 12 people stayed at the home over the course of three days in late July and early August of 2021. He told investigators that the group used cocaine and marijuana in the home, but denied that there was any fentanyl present, according to a PBSO report.
The lawsuit alleges that Airbnb breached its duty of care by failing to ensure that the home had been properly cleaned, and in failing to notify the Lavenir family that drugs had been used in the home.
“In terms of Airbnb’s culpability, it’s very simple,” Scolaro said. “If you are in the business of renting out homes and you tell people that it’s safe and secure and it’s sanitary and you end up having a baby killed as a result of (negligence), you should expect to be sued and rightfully so.”
Airbnb says it did not book prior guest into Wellington vacation home
Airbnb has not filed a formal response with the court.
However, an Airbnb spokesperson said the company had not done any bookings at the Wellington address prior to the Lavenir family’s stay and noted that the previous guest booked a stay through a different vacation travel company.
“Our hearts go out to the Lavenir family and their loved ones for their devastating loss,” the company said in a formal statement.