Was the Manager Liable for an Owner’s Stabbing?
Violence is an unfortunate reality, and community associations and their managers need to prepare for the possibility of an owner falling victim and then seeking recompense from them. Preparation doesn’t necessarily require formal security precautions, though. Associations may be able to limit liability for themselves and their managers in their declarations. That’s what happened in a recent case in Georgia (Sadlowski v. Beacon Mgmt. Svcs., Inc. (Ga. App. 2019)).
The lawsuit was filed by an owner in a downtown Atlanta condominium complex, who moved into the complex in February 2014. The community had controlled-access vehicle and pedestrian gates, but he didn’t receive an access-gate key fob from the seller when he closed on his condo.
He eventually received a key fob from the HOA president on March 4, about two-and-a-half weeks after closing. But he couldn’t get it to work on the vehicle-access gate. The owner called and sent text messages about the problem to the HOA president. After receiving no response, he reached out to the manager, who said the fob “should be working.”
In the midst of his attempts to get his hands on a working key fob, about one month after moving into the complex, the owner was violently attacked on the sidewalk just outside of the property.
The attack occurred around 2:00 a.m., as the owner and his girlfriend were stuck outside the complex, waiting for another resident to drive through the parking gate so they could follow behind. After waiting in vain for 15 to 20 minutes, they decided to park on the street.
After exiting the vehicle, an assailant pressed a knife against his throat and demanded his wallet. The owner broke free and fought back but was stabbed three times.
The owner sued the manager, alleging negligence in its provision of security to the complex, but the trial court dismissed the case before trial. It found that the manager wasn’t providing security to the complex and had no duty to do so. The owner appealed.
“He said that because the manager was providing a service akin to security — the access gate system — it had an obligation to ensure the safety of the residents,” explains Jeffrey Beaumont, a partner with Beaumont Tashjian in Woodland Hills, Calif.
To learn how the court came down on the case and some lessons managers can take from the case, read our new article, Security Clauses Preempt Manager Liability for Owner’s Stabbing.