QUESTION: I am on the board of directors and I’ve always carried my firearm concealed whenever I’m working outside on the property for the last 5 years I’ve had the permit. If I am involved in a lethal force incident in the common areas (which is everywhere outside the units), does the HOA face any type of civil liability arising out of a deadly force incident? I’ve seen the declaration page for our policy and in the main portion and in any riders attached there is no mention even ambiguously of coverage (or not) for this type of contingency.
RESPONSE: If you are on the board of directors and you are involved in a lethal force incident in the common areas, there is a 99.999% certainty the association will be named in any lawsuits that might be filed. Associations have deep pockets and make attractive targets. A plaintiff's lawyer will name everyone even remotely connected to the incident and let the court sort out liability.
Liability? Is it possible the association would have liability? It would depend on the circumstances involved in the shooting. In 2012, the fatal shooting of 17-year old Trayvon Martin by a homeowner association's neighborhood watch leader made the association a target of litigation. Trayvon's parents filed a claim with the insurer and sued the association for wrongful death, pain and suffering, and loss of earnings and expenses.
Insurance Denied Coverage. The association's insurance, through Traveler’s, sued Trayvon Martin’s mother and the association seeking clarification from the court that it had no responsibility to defend the association or to pay any judgment over the teenager’s death. Travelers had denied coverage under the policy’s “wrongful act” exclusion. A settlement was reached between Trayvon's parents and the association for an undisclosed amount, which was reported to be in excess of $1 million.
Insurance Exclusion? Whether your association's insurance covers an incident by a board member using a firearm is something you would have to discuss with your association's insurance agent.
ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.