$20M Jury Verdict Raises Alarming Questions for Homeowners
A homeowners association in Las Vegas is facing not just a staggering jury verdict in favor of the family of a teenager who was injured by playground equipment in the community, but also questions from confused members, some of whom feel misled.
In 2015, a swing set crossbar in the community’s common area fell on the 15-year-old boy’s head, causing permanent brain damage that will worsen over time. Court records show the association did not have a maintenance and inspection plan on their playground equipment.
The association and its insurance company were given multiple chances to settle the case for the policy maximum of $2 million, but they refused and lost at trial, so homeowners may be left holding the bag to the tune of as much as $90,000 each. Some are worried they may lose their homes or go through foreclosure.
Questions remain as to whether the association intentionally lied to homeowners, who were not informed of the lawsuit by the association. Some first saw the news of the lawsuit on social media. Now, homeowners have hired their own lawyers. The attorneys are looking at whether there was any negligence or intentional misconduct by the insurance company, or by the community management company that led to this worst-case-scenario.
On the bright side, homeowners have been informed as to how to protect themselves, through adding lien assessment coverage to their individual insurance policies and filing homestead declarations. A Declaration of Homestead could protect the homeowners from a lien execution on a judgment that’s been entered against the association. Homesteading is a smart move for anyone who lives in an association.
In the meantime, a closed homeowners meeting was held by the board. The association banned one local news station from its Facebook page. A court hearing on a possible appeal of the verdict is scheduled for this spring.