Skip to main content
  1. Life
  2. Neighborhoods
  3. Real Estate & Construction

What happens when an association's neighborhood watch goes rogue?

See also

News headlines for the past week have brought to mind a disturbing part of recent Florida history. Apparently, former Sanford citizen and neighborhood watch commander George Zimmerman is planning on fighting in an upcoming celebrity boxing match, supposedly to raise money in order to live. Now, we all know that Zimmerman was found not guilty in his criminal trial, but the fact that he took the law into his own hands on that dark and stormy night is not in dispute. Unfortunately, the overzealous actions of neighborhood security personnel are not limited to our Central Florida neighbors.

On September 25, 2013, The Palm Beach Post (the “Post”) reported that the Northlake Villa Condominium was ordered to pay $1.5 million dollars to the victim of a shooting where the assailant, Jack Abrams, was the associations “deputized” security guard and who wasn’t even an owner, but was the live-in boyfriend of a board member. Because Abrams had been appointed by the association’s board to enforce the condominium’s rules and regulations, a Palm Beach County jury last week found that the association was liable for Abrams’s inexplicable fit of anger.

The Post reported that, in 2010, Abrams “lost it” when a woman left the condominium’s laundry room door open. Abrams vented his displeasure loudly. The woman’s boyfriend, wondering what the commotion was, ventured into the hallway where Abrams proceeded to shoot him three times leading to, as reported, 24 blood transfusions, 12 surgeries, and more to come. During the trial, the Post reported that the following facts were presented:

• When the board appointed Abrams, no background checks were done.

• Abrams received an “other than honorable discharge” in 2000 from the U.S. Marines Corps for drug use and other character flaws.

• A psychiatrist and psychologist who examined Abrams, as part of the criminal case, agreed he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and paranoia.

• When North Palm Beach police searched his apartment, they discovered an arsenal of weapons including five guns, seven combat knives, and 1,400 rounds of ammunition.

• Others testified about Abrams’s increasingly erratic behavior. It was reported that he accosted people in the parking lot if they didn’t park their cars between the lines.

• The day before he shot the victim, he told one resident: “I’m getting so sick and tired of this laundry room. I’m going to kill someone over it.”

Unfortunately, that is exactly what he did. Abrams shot the owner’s boyfriend “due to a mixture of rage and intoxication”. While a security expert testified during trial that such “poor decision-making by neighborhood and condo associations is becoming increasingly common”, it was not poor decision making that led to the judgment against the condominium. Rather, it was that the board failed to act. By failing to act, the board conducted itself with reckless abandon.

In his column Rembaum's Association Roundup, attorney Jeff Rembaum of Kaye Bender Rembaum analyzed the poor judgement and regrettable circumstances that took place during the case.

"The “standard” by which association board members should conduct themselves is referred to as “reasonable business judgment”. In plain English, this does not mean a board must always be right in their decision making," stated Rembaum. "Rather, they must act reasonably under the circumstances. So, when a board defies the requirements of its own governing documents by deputizing a non-owner as a defacto committee chair of security, turns a blind eye to reports of its residents as to Abrams’s erratic behavior, and fails to conduct even a simple background check before appointing individuals to the neighborhood watch committee, it’s not likely anyone would believe the board acted reasonably. Rather, the board acted with a reckless and wonton abandon endangering the life of every owner, tenant, and guest."

The Northlake Villa Condominium learned the hard way that there is such a line. Will George Zimmerman’s community association bear financial liability for the death of Trayvon Martin? Did his association’s board act with reckless abandon and fail to fulfill its duty by exercise of its reasonable business judgment?

"Interestingly, the State of Georgia’s appellate courts have held that a condominium association, being a purely legislative created form of ownership (similar to Florida’s condominium regime) does not owe a duty to provide security in the common areas where it previously disclaimed such responsibility in its declaration of condominium. Likely, this would be true in Florida, too," Rembaum continued. "However, when a board fails to act when it should have, there are very real consequences. The Abrams case teaches us that where an association creates a neighborhood watch committee, the board should take “reasonable”(there is that word again) measures during the appointment process, such as running background checks and ensuring those appointed to office meet any requirements set out in the governing documents."

Be sure to subscribe to this column, and stay abreast of issues involving you, the homeowners of Palm Beach County. If you've had any issues with your HOA that you'd like me to try and delve into, and possibly write about later, please let me know. Also, if you'd like to join the discussion on Twitter, you can find me at http://twitter.com/#!/faborplumbs. While you’re at it, please read my articles about local getaways, motorsports, elections, and restaurants.

Advertisement

Life

  • Transgender cop
    A transgender police officer is stepping down from her position to run for office
    Video
    Political Office
  • Easter eggs
    Craft delicate, hand-painted eggs with flowers and other designs celebrating spring
    Camera
    Easter Eggs
  • Subway message
    Subway customer finds 'Big Mama' written on her order
    Video
    Subway Message
  • Working from home
    Working from home can be an exciting venture. Get tips to ensure productivity
    Camera
    Get Tips
  • Limes
    Rising cost of limes could be putting the squeeze on your favorite restaurant
    Expensive Limes
  • Pope Francis
    Religion: Pope Francis instructs how to fight against Satan
    Morning Mass

Related Videos:

  • Easter means eggs
    <div class="video-info" data-id="517728122" data-param-name="playList" data-provider="5min" data-url="http://pshared.5min.com/Scripts/PlayerSeed.js?sid=1304&width=480&height=401&playList=517728122&autoStart=true"></div>
  • Event Flyer for the Ladies Night Out at The Shops at Kenilworth
    <div class="video-info" data-id="517978365" data-param-name="playList" data-provider="5min" data-url="http://pshared.5min.com/Scripts/PlayerSeed.js?sid=1304&width=480&height=401&playList=517978365&autoStart=true"></div>
  • Nestlé® Toll House® turns 75
    <div class="video-info" data-id="517518604" data-param-name="playList" data-provider="5min" data-url="http://pshared.5min.com/Scripts/PlayerSeed.js?sid=1304&width=480&height=401&playList=517518604&autoStart=true"></div>

User login

Log in
Sign in with your email and password. Or reset your password.
Write for us
Interested in becoming an Examiner and sharing your experience and passion? We're always looking for quality writers. Find out more about Examiner.com and apply today!