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defibrillatorThe issue of whether or not a homeowners association is required to install and maintain an automated external defibrillator (“AED”) on-site is a question that has not been directly addressed by California courts. As a result, many community members and Board of Directors (“Board”) seek legal guidance and clarity as to the same. In particular, associations that maintain common area facilities and accommodations such as a gym, basketball court, tennis court, or swimming pool, feel the need to maintain an AED due to the rising number of lawsuits that are being filed against businesses and corporate entities for failing to maintain same.

The main cause of action named in these lawsuits is one of negligence, wherein plaintiffs claim the landowner has breached its duty of care by failing to maintain an AED on-site; chief among these cases is Verdugo v. Target Corp. (2014) 59 Cal.4th 312.  In this case, Verdugo, age 49, suffered a sudden cardiac arrest while shopping at Target and died despite the paramedics’ attempts to revive her. There was no AED in the store. Verdugo’s family members filed the suit against Target claiming that it breached its duty of care to its invitees (i.e., business guests) by failing to maintain an AED in the store. However, the Court ruled in favor of Target holding that it did not owe a statutory or common law duty to maintain an AED.

The Court found that Target did not owe a statutory duty of care under California Health and Safety Code (“CHSC”) §1797.196 because it only imposes obligations on an entity or person that maintains an AED; the statute does not require them to maintain same. More importantly, the Court reasoned that while Target owed a reasonable duty of care to provide assistance to a patron in medical need, maintaining an AED exceeded the scope of duty. The Court looked at two factors: (1) the degree of foreseeability that the danger will arise on the business’s premises and (2) the relative burden that providing a particular precautionary measure will place upon the business.

In its evaluation of the two factors, the Court found that there was no reason for Target to foresee that shopping within its premises would increase the risk or cause an invitee to go into cardiac arrest. Secondly, the burden of regularly maintaining an AED (in accordance with all federal and state regulations) and trained personnel on-site was not minor or minimal, outweighing the need for same.

Although Verdugo dealt with a for-profit corporation, it appears to support the position that homeowners associations are not required to maintain an AED. Like Target, a homeowners association does not have any reason to foresee an increased risk of cardiac arrest within its premises from the mere fact an individual—whether it is a homeowner, guest, or tenant—is occupying a unit within the community or visiting.

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hoa-water-damage-claims*New Library Article!

Many condominium associations face problems due to a misunderstanding of how their association’s policies of insurance operate and should be utilized—especially in connection with property damage emanating from broken pipes or plumbing fixtures. Those problems include, among others: (a) denying owners the benefit of the insurance coverage to which they are entitled; (b) having the association assume broader repair responsibilities than what it legally must or should; and (c) failing to adopt policies to allow for losses to be resolved in consistent, equitable and cost-efficient manners.

Our HOA attorneys have authored a new article to address these problems by dispelling some of the confusion at their core. In doing so, we provide recommendations as to how condominium associations should approach water damage claims with the assistance of their HOA legal and insurance professionals. Those recommendations include what we believe every condominium association should adopt as part of their operating rules: a “Water Loss Policy.”

hoa laws The article, entitled “Water Damage Claims in Your Condo Association,” is available for download from our firm’s library. You can access the article by clicking here.

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Labor-Unions-Preventive-Practices-1024x683On August 27, 2015, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) published its decision in the Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc. case (“BFI Case”). In that case, Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc. (“BFI”) retained the services of Leadpoint Business Services (“LBS”) to provide staff to one of BFI’s recycling facilities. The contract between BFI and LBS recognized, and the parties understood, that the personnel staffed by LBS were the employees of LBS. Nevertheless, given the fact that the contract granted BFI with some control over the employees of LBS, the NLRB concluded that BFI was a joint-employer of LBS thereby obligating BFI to comply with federal labor laws.

In adopting a new legal standard for determining joint-employer status, the NLRB emphasized that such a determination should not be based solely on actual control over the employees of another, but the “existence, extent, and object of the putative joint employer’s control.” (Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc. (2015) 2015 NLRB No. 672, *12 (Emphasis added).) Otherwise, employers would be able to insulate themselves from their responsibility to comply with federal labor laws. (Id. at p. *21) Accordingly, as long as a company retains (e.g., through the execution of a contract) the authority to control the employees of another, said company shall be given joint employer status. (Id. at p. *2.) This is true even if control is exercised indirectly (e.g., through an intermediary). (Id.)

Many associations retain a community management firm for the purpose of executing the duties of the association. These community management firms in turn employ community managers and support staff to manage these associations. While historically recognized as the employee of the community management firm (and an independent contractor of the association), the BFI Case raises some questions with respect to the nature of the relationship between the employees of a community management firm and the association. Accordingly, associations must be cognizant that a Court may find that it is a joint employer of the community manager (and support staff), notwithstanding the fact that it exercises no direct and immediate control over said manager.

Similarly, associations and management companies must take care when hiring maintenance and service providers for the community.  When managers, committee members, or board members are conducting job walks with a contractor’s employee, reviewing specifications, or receiving invoices, the management company and the association may become joint employers. In Heiman v. Worker’s Compensation Appeals Board, Cal: Court of Appeal, 2nd Appellate Dist., 3rd Div. 2007 (“Heiman”), a community association manager hired an unlicensed and uninsured contractor on behalf of the association to install rain gutters on the condominium buildings.  An employee of the contractor was seriously injured on the first day of the project and sued the contractor, management company, and association for workers’ compensation.  The Court held that the contractor, the association, and the management company were all joint employers because the contractor hired the injured employee, and the management company, as agent of the association, hired the contractor.  The BFI Case seems to affirm this decision.

California HOA laws In order to insulate the association from a possible finding of joint-employer status, the association should ensure that its contract with independent contractors, requires all proper licenses and insurance, adequately sets forth the desired results, and sets forth the level of care and skill to be used in accomplishing the desired results. (See Id. at p. 12 (“mere ‘service under an agreement to accomplish results or to use care and skill in accomplishing results’ is not evidence of an employment, or joint-employment relationship”).) The agreement should also include a provision that requires the contractor to indemnify and hold the association harmless in the event a labor dispute arises.

Blog post authored by TLG attorney, Matthew T. Plaxton.

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hoa vendorsOne of the primary purposes of any homeowners association (HOA) is to manage, maintain and repair the common areas throughout the HOA’s development. This naturally requires the HOA to contract with third-party vendors to furnish goods or services to the HOA (e.g., landscaping, construction, remediation, painting, plumbing, etc.). We are consistently surprised at how some Board members and management professionals fail to recognize how the HOA’s use of improperly vetted vendors can result in potentially significant legal and financial implications for the HOA, among other problems. Therefore, the need to properly vet vendors—and their contracts—is critical before the Board executes any vendor’s contract on behalf of the HOA.

We previously drafted a library article entitled “HOA Concerns in Contracting with Vendors” that provides some guidance as to how a HOA’s Board and Managing Agent can protect the interests of the HOA and its members. This blog post touches on some of the information contained in that article, and sets forth some recommended procedures which should be utilized before any vendor begins work at the HOA’s development.

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*New Case LawHOA-insurance-defense.jpg

In a recent blog post we addressed the importance of involving the HOA’s legal counsel in the decision as to whether a lawsuit brought against the HOA should be tendered to one or more of the HOA’s insurance carriers. The recent case of San Miguel Community Association v. State Farm General Ins. Co. (October 1, 2013) (Cal.App.4th, No. G047738) (“San Miguel”) touched on this issue. Although the ruling in San Miguel focused primarily upon the scope of an insurer’s obligation to defend a HOA under the HOA’s insurance policy, the ruling underscores the importance of reviewing, understanding, and if necessary, seeking professional guidance regarding the scope of insurance coverage afforded to a HOA under its insurance policies.

In San Miguel, two homeowners sought to force the HOA to take action to curb ongoing parking violations within the community. After the HOA refused to take action, the homeowners demanded the HOA’s participation in mediation, thereby prompting the HOA to tender the matter to its insurance carrier, State Farm. In responding to the HOA, State Farm noted that the claims brought by the homeowners did not seek the recovery of monetary damages, and were therefore insufficient to trigger State Farm’s obligation to defend the HOA or to reimburse the HOA for its defense costs…

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hoa insurance*New Library Article

There are instances where a disgruntled homeowner may file a lawsuit against his or her homeowners association (“HOA”). The lawsuit may be based on a variety of claims (i.e., claims involving property damage or alleged malfeasance on the part of the HOA’s Board of Directors). This is one of the reasons why HOAs are legally required to purchase and maintain certain insurance policies designed to protect the HOA and its membership from a variety of risks.

However, problems may arise in response to the actions taken by the HOA and its management once the lawsuit has been served. Those problems generally result from the way in which the lawsuit may have been “tendered” (sent to) to one or more of the HOA’s insurance carriers, including whether it was even appropriate to tender the lawsuit in the first place. This blog post addresses some of those problems and provides guidance to HOA Boards and their management with regard to this issue…

Our attorneys have also published this information in an article that is available for download from our Web site’s library.

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