Image courtesy of the online digital collection of the New York Public Library.
Airbnb, the rental aggregator, has reportedly released a report it commissioned on possible racial discrimination and other practices by some of its hosts:
The moves were outlined in a 32-page report that serves as a blueprint for how Airbnb plans to fight discrimination on the site. Among the other changes is a new full-time anti-discrimination team of engineers, data scientists and researchers, whose job includes discerning patterns of host behavior.
“Bias and discrimination have no place on Airbnb, and we have zero tolerance for them,” Mr. Chesky [identified as "Airbnb's chief executive"] wrote in a message to Airbnb users and hosts that accompanied the report. “Unfortunately, we have been slow to address these problems, and for this I am sorry.”
Oh, well, Mr. Chesky is sorry. But suppose that hypothetically a judge and jury in a given case holds Airbnb liable for the rental practices of its hosts? Airbnb to my knowledge still maintains that its hosts are independent contractors for which it is not liable, but suppose hypothetically that a judge and jury in a given case finds that it is liable for unlawful rental practices, and that Airbnb makes an insurance claim to pay off any money judgment that may result.
Actually, the insurance coverage question seems to be fairly clear in that event. If the insurance policies provide a duty to defend against such allegations or a duty to indemnify against such judgments, then this case becomes only one particular opportunity to apply those insurance policies.
The more complex insurance coverage question may come from cases in which the policyholder is alleged to be liable for someone else's unlawful practices for a reason related to its own behavior. Assuming the possibility of such exposure, the same general principles of insurance coverage probably ought to apply then too: If the insurance policies provide a duty to defend against such alleged claims or a duty to indemnify against such judgments, then this case too becomes only another opportunity to apply those insurance policies.
The really complicated questions here seem, in the end, to involve issues of liability in the first instance. The insurance coverage questions in such cases seem relatively straight-forward by comparison.
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