Hill Wallack LLP’s Condo FAQs is a continuing series in which we answer frequently asked questions (FAQs) pertaining to condominiums, cooperatives and homeowners associations. These FAQs relate to various issues that include interpretation of governing documents, board meetings, suspension of privileges, collections, or bankruptcy and foreclosure.
Question: We have been told that our association may not be responsible or liable for personal injuries or damages when someone slips and falls. Is that correct?
Answer: If your by-laws contain a provision providing for tort immunity, the answer may be yes. New Jersey has a tort immunity statute that allows associations to shield themselves from liability for certain types of injuries caused to unit owners due to the association’s negligence. This immunity is applicable as long as the association has certain language in their by-laws or takes the proper steps to amend their by-laws.
Specifically, N.J.S.A. 2A:62A-13 provides:
Where the bylaws of a qualified common interest community specifically so provide, the association shall not be liable in any civil action brought by or on behalf of a unit owner to respond in damages as a result of bodily injury to the unit owner occurring on the premises of the qualified common interest community.
Nothing in this act shall be deemed to grant immunity to any association causing bodily injury to the unit owner on the premises of the qualified common interest community by its willful, wanton or grossly negligent act of commission or omission.
Put simply, a tort immunity provision would prevent an association from being liable for personal injury or other damages suffered by a unit owner due to the association’s own negligence. However, it is important to note a few things. First, the immunity applies only when the injury is to a unit owner or that person’s spouse; the immunity will not apply to tenants or other residents (see N.J.S.A. 2A:62A-12). Further, the immunity does not apply where the association is found to have been willful, wanton or grossly negligent act of commission or omission that leads to an injury. Finally, any amendment to the by-laws regarding tort immunity must be approved by at least two-thirds (2/3) of the owners (see N.J.S.A. 2A:62A-14).
For more information on this issue or any other issue concerning your community association, please contact one of our Community Associations attorneys. For breaking news or updates on new blog posts, follow us on Twitter at: @njcondolaw.