Personal Injuries in Common Areas of Condo Association

When someone gets injured due to a dangerous condition in the Common Areas of a Condo Association or Homeowner’s Association who is responsible?

Under Florida Statutes Chapter 718 (Condominium Associations) and Chapter 720 (Homeowner Associations), the Association is responsible for maintaining the common elements. The Declaration which is part of the Association’s Governing Documents sets forth the boundaries of an individual’s unit. In addition it usually defines the common elements. While each Association may define the common elements differently, they usually include the following:

 Typical Common Elements

  •  condominium or association property not included within the units or homes;
  •  easements of support within a unit that contribute to the support of a building;
  •  easements through units for conduits, ducts, plumbing, wiring, and other facilities for the furnishing of  utility services to units; and
  •  the property and installation required for furnishing utilities and other services to more than one unit or to the Association property.

The most common type of personal injury case involving the common elements of an Association usually involves the recreation areas such as the pool or tennis courts or the common walkways, stairs and parking areas. Many of these areas can be neglected or run down resulting in dangerous conditions that could cause somebody to be injured. Associations can also be responsible to victims of criminal assaults and other violent crimes that occur on Association Property if the Association agreed to provide security or voluntarily undertook the task of contracting security personnel for the property.

In order to state a claim against an Association you will need to prove that your injuries were caused by a dangerous or defective condition on or in the common elements and that the Association, by virtue of its Governing Documents or other means agreed to maintain or be responsible for this particular area. The normal common law tort or negligence concepts of notice usually won’t apply in these cases because the liability of the Association is actually predicated upon the Association’s breach of contract or voluntary undertaking.

In the recent case of Vazquez v. Lago Grande Homeowners Association, 900 So.2d 587 (Fla. 3d DCA 2005) the Court held that the Association was responsible for a wrongful death after an ex-husband of a guest gained entry to the property and shot and killed his ex-wife and shot another resident. The Court reasoned that the Condominium association was liable for the death of the visitor and injury of resident, caused by visitor’s ex-husband, based on both the association’s own negligence in retaining the security company despite notice of company’s prior security deficiencies and the association’s vicarious responsibility for the company’s negligence, which arose because of association’s legal inability to delegate non-delegable contractual duties it assumed in its agreements with condominium association members.

Both the Association and the Security Company argued that they had no duty to prevent the shooting in the absence of prior similar crimes at the condominium complex or information suggesting that shooter was a dangerous person. Chief Judge Allan Schwartz went on to note in his rather detailed opinion, that notice of prior offenses was not necessary since the very purpose of what the security company and association agreed to do was to exercise reasonable care to prevent any criminal activity from occurring.

What this means is that regardless of whether someone is shot or killed because of negligent security or slips and falls due to water from a roof leak or trips over a broken paver, the Association can be held responsible and cannot shift the blame to others hired to manage the property or repair the condition. This is based upon the fact that the Association’s duty to maintain and be responsible for the Common Elements is a non-delegable duty.

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured due to a dangerous or defective condition of the common elements of a Condo or Homeowner Association or in another type of accident in Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale, Hallandale Beach, Aventura, Davie, Dania Beach, Cooper City, Sunny Isles, North Miami, Miramar or Pembroke Pines, we will come out to your location personally to meet with you and discuss your case.

If you are not sure if you have a case please contact us now for a Free Case Evaluation. You may be entitled to significant monetary compensation.

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