A complaint was filed against a condominium association over the murder of a couple in their penthouse. The court ordered the negligence counts dismissed because state law provides an exclusive remedy for wrongful death. The condominium trust was not entitled to summary judgment on the wrongful death claims because the crimes were reasonably foreseeable. The trust should be held to the same standard of care for common areas as a landlord.
Although Massachusetts has not ruled on this question, the court noted California and Arizona have each addressed the duty of care of condominium associations and concluded they should be held to the same standard of care for common areas as a landlord.
The court concluded it was reasonably foreseeable to the trust that an intruder could enter the garage, access floor 11, and then harm residents. No other armed home invasion or murder had occurred at the premises before. But that could not detract at that stage of the case from all of the other circumstantial evidentiary factors pointing to a duty based on foreseeability.
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT… Although only a preliminary decision, it opens the door for new liability for condominium associations by holding that they assume a duty to protect common areas from intruders. They can be liable if the damage caused was foreseeable. The fact that a criminal act ultimately caused the damage may not be enough to protect the association.