A condominium association and its management company were found liable in March for the accidental death of a 9-year old boy and ordered to pay his parents millions in damages.
Andrew Curtis was biking with his father past the entrance of the Villas on the Green condominium association in Jupiter, Florida, in January 2011 when Helen Bygel pulled out and fatally struck Andrew with her car. Bygel says she couldn’t see the boy because the association’s overgrown hedges impeded her view.
Andrew’s parents sued Bygel, Villas on the Green and the association’s management company for negligence. At trial, a jury discovered the association’s hedges were nearly two times taller than city code and that the 37 inch stop sign at the association’s entrance was poorly placed and nearly 4 feet shorter than Florida Department of Transportation requirements.
The jury determined these violations prevented Bygel from seeing Andrew and found Bygel 10 percent liable, the association 30 percent liable and the management company 60 percent liable for the boy’s death. Andrew’s parents were awarded $12 million for pain and suffering.
Helio De La Torre, a Florida attorney and CCAL member, says this tragedy highlights the need for associations to ensure their grounds are safe and comply with regulations.
“I think (this case shows) how commonplace scenarios can cause people injury or death,” says De La Torre. “It reminds every one of their fiduciary and moral responsibilities to protect their communities.”
He recommends associations have adequate insurance coverage in the event of a catastrophe. He also advises associations to negotiate the terms of their management company contracts’ indemnity clauses. Most are written to hold only the company liable for damages in the event of gross negligence.