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New Jersey Tort Immunity: How And Why Homeowner's Associations Protect Themselves By Passing Resolutions

By Jennifer L. Alexander, Esq. March 26, 2014 Posted in Community Association Law

Amenities of some sort are typically an integral part of a community. Pools, clubhouses and fitness centers are popular amenities that can bring residents together in a social atmosphere. However, those same enjoyable amenities can also be the cause of resident accidents. That said, condo and homeowner's associations throughout New Jersey often look for ways to protect themselves from liability when such accidents occur. In New Jersey, associations have ways to shield themselves from liability, namely through the use of tort immunity and by passing resolutions.

Associations should be aware that New Jersey has a tort immunity statute that allows them to shield themselves from certain types of injuries (normally, those stemming from simple negligence), so long as they follow certain procedures to have their members adopt an amendment to the bylaws. Please note, however, that such amendments do not include instances of gross negligence in which the association has received notice of a potential danger and it failed to take reasonable action to resolve the issue. Still, it is also a good idea for an association to use resolutions to protect themselves even further.

Generally, resolutions are used whenever an association's board needs to pass certain rules or formalize certain policies. Associations typically utilize resolutions whenever the issues at hand are lengthy, formal or complex. The passage of the resolution then becomes the basis for consistency with respect to the policy and rules, and it also provides an official record of the board's decisions.

Thinking Ahead

Many associations often make the mistake of not exercising due diligence ahead of time by performing a yearly risk assessment to inspect all common places and amenities in the community in order to ensure that there is no risk of injury. One way that associations can protect themselves is to make certain that a rule and/or regulation is in place for every amenity they have in the community.

All too often, community associations have certain rules that simply state that if a homeowner violates said rules, he or she will face fines and/or penalties. However, the rules may not specify how they will actually be enforced, what the actual fines and/or penalties will be and when/how they will be levied against a violator. In this case, an association can use a resolution to provide more clarity for both the board and the homeowners.

What Happens When Someone Gets Hurt?

To be sure, it's always wise to be a step ahead of a problem or accident before it takes place. But even if, despite an association's best efforts, a resident gets hurt on the grounds of the community, the association should not hesitate to correct the issue. Most people living in a community that has amenities appreciate and enjoy having those amenities. And hopefully, an association will never have to deal with an injury or issue that is amenity-related. But the only way an association can ensure the safety of their amenities in order to avoid liability is to do their due diligence and be active in all aspects of amenity management, from maintenance to possible claims.

If you have questions about tort immunity and how resolutions might help you avoid liability, contact an attorney at Griffin Alexander, P.C. as soon as possible.

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