Florida jury finds HOA negligent, awards more than $1 million to Plaintiffs
By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
In Palm Beach County, Florida, Sheldon Ensard and his wife, Mary Ann, were awarded more than $1.1 million due to negligence by Seminole Lakes Homeowners Association. (See Case No. 2014-CA-005525)
According to court records, and a press release by Plaintiff (Ensard) attorneys, Kaplan Sconzo & Parker, P.A., the case involved personal injury sustained by Sheldon Ensard on HOA property when his vehicle was totaled in a rear end collision by driver Dedric Upshur.
Seminole Lakes HOA is a planned community that has a common problem – it was designed with narrow roadways.
Plaintiff’s attorneys presented evidence at trial that the private roads in the community are not wide enough to allow for two-way traffic when vehicles are parallel parked on both sides of the road. Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) for Seminole Lakes prohibit street parking, however, the HOA did not actively enforce these restrictions.
On the day of the accident, Mary Ann Ensard was driving with Sheldon in the passenger seat, when Mary Ann encountered a traffic bottleneck on one of the HOA’s private roads. Vehicles were parked on both sides of the road, allowing only one car to navigate between them. Ensard had stopped to allow oncoming traffic to pass through the bottleneck. While waiting for her opportunity to move forward in their vehicle on their way home, Upshur failed to stop his vehicle and crashed into the rear of Ensard’s car.
Sheldon sustained neck and back injuries, and filed suit against Upshur and Seminole Lakes HOA in 2014.
The jury allocated negligence leading to the accident as follows:
- 70% to Dedric Upshur, for careless driving
- 30% to Seminole Lakes HOA, for failure to enforce CC&Rs with regard to parking restrictions on community roads
Seminole Lakes HOA has moved to set aside the verdict.
Court records indicate that legal costs for the Plaintiff are roughly $750,000.
Of course, the entire ordeal could have been prevented if Palm Beach County had required the developer of Seminole Lakes to construct standard width roads that would allow for two way traffic, with cars parked on both sides. Likewise, providing home sites with adequate parking space in the garage or driveway would have prevented the practice of residents and visitors parking on the street.
Poor planning at the time of design and construction has burdened Seminole Lakes HOA with a hardship that is difficult to resolve.
Apparently, the HOA board decided to allow parking on the street without first seeking to amend the CC&Rs, and without implementing a workable parking policy. For example, the HOA could have considered amending the CC&Rs to allow parking on one side of the street only.
But the CC&Rs were not amended and were not enforced. Therefore, residents were either unaware of the official ban on street parking, or chose to ignore the restriction.
The result was that a homeowner sustained a life-altering injury, and the HOA lost a lawsuit in excess of $1 million – an example of the domino effect of poor planning leading to parking conflicts, traffic hazards, and costly legal disputes.
Kaplan Sconzo & Parker, P.A. receives Multi-Million Dollar Verdict in Palm Beach County Jury Trial in Homeowners’ Association Negligence Case
Screen shot of jury verdict from Palm Beach County public records: