Article Courtesy of The Daily Business Review
By Michael L. Hyman
Published September 28, 2018
While recreational amenities such as pools and hot tubs significantly add to
the appeal of condominium and homeowners association communities, they also
come with major liability risks that must be mitigated by the use of
effective safety and maintenance measures. The recent $7.5 million verdict
for a St. Petersburg, Florida, condominium resident to compensate him for
the injuries that he sustained in his community’s hot tub is a telling
example of the potential ramifications that can result when any defects in
the working condition of these amenities are not properly addressed.
In 2008, Ehab Mina was about to step into the hot tub at the Boca Ciega
Resort & Marina Condominium when he became startled to see that it was
partially drained. The problem in the hot tub caused the 44-year-old to
slip, and he badly injured his right shoulder and spine.
Mina required multiple surgeries, and he was ultimately forced to sell his
boat-building business as a result of his injuries. He filed suit against
the association and its property management company, Condos by Sirata Inc.,
alleging that the hot tub should have had a posted warning and adequate
lighting in the evening hours.
The attorneys for the condominium association responded by arguing that the
half-empty hot tub was an obvious condition, but the jury found the
association and its management company to be jointly liable. It awarded a
$7.56 million verdict to Mina.
For the unit owners, this verdict could present significant financial
repercussions, especially if the association and management company general
liability insurance policies’ limits are insufficient to cover the entire
amount of the verdict. In that event, the association will be compelled to
pass a special assessment, and its insurance premiums are likely to rise,
leading to a substantial financial burden for all of the owners.
The expensive lesson for the association in this case is an important one
for all Florida community associations and their property managers.
Associations must apply reasonable vigilance in maintaining and inspecting
all community recreational amenities. An association’s obligations include
regularly scheduled periodic inspections followed by performing all of the
necessary maintenance and replacement procedures to ensure that all
amenities and equipment are kept in safe working condition. In addition,
user weight and size restrictions, or limitations on the hours during which
amenities may be used, could also help to potentially limit legal liability
should an injury occur.
Associations must take the maintenance and upkeep of their recreational
amenities and equipment just as seriously as they do for their roofs,
structural elements and plumbing elements. On-site staff must be extremely
diligent in monitoring the conditions of pools, hot tubs and other amenities
as well as all common areas. Even if it is an obvious condition, such as the
level of the water, the best course of action is to close the amenity
immediately and post signs and barriers as needed to prevent anyone from
using it. Once closed, the amenity should be re-opened for use by residents
and guests only after it has been restored to safe and normal working
This recent ruling and others similar to it in the past illustrate how the
prevention of potential injuries and legal liabilities must always trump any
concerns regarding the cost of repairs or the inconvenience of temporarily
closing a community amenity.