Crime happens. And, when it happens within a community association, the association will oftentimes get drawn into civil lawsuit seeking millions of dollars. While an association cannot prevent being named in a wrongful death lawsuit, it can do certain things to help protect itself from liability in such suits. One of those things is obtain the proper liability insurance. Another is to ensure that an association’s Declaration contains an exculpatory clause stating the association does not have a duty to provide security on its premises.
The contrasting results of two Georgia Court of Appeals cases highlight the importance of such an exculpatory clause. The tragic facts of the cases, Bradford Square Condominium Association, Inc. v. Miller (decided in 2002) and Camelot Club Condominium Association, Inc. v. Afari-Opoku (decided in 2017), are strikingly similar. Both cases involved criminals following a condominium resident into the condominium, and attacking and killing the resident during a robbery attempt. However, the resulting civil wrongful death lawsuits filed against the condominium Associations ended with very different verdicts for the Associations. In the Camelot Club case, the jury found the Association to be partially responsible for the victim’s death, and liable for paying 25% of a $1,625,000.00 jury verdict. In contrast, the Georgia Court of Appeals in Bradford Square found that the Association was not liable for the victim’s death, and the victim’s widow was awarded no money.