In a recent case heard by the Illinois Court of Appeals, Muhs v. Fox Point Homeowners Association (the “Association”), the Appellate Court of Illinois ruled in favor of a homeowners association, stating that the association was not liable for the actions of a volunteer committee member.
Doreen Colletti Muhs (the “Homeowner”) sued Fox Point Homeowners Association (the “Association”) and Stacy Boyum for injuries she sustained during a party on Fox Point’s premises when Boyum knocked the Homeowner to the ground while trying to encourage her and other party guests to jump into the pool. Boyum was one of three volunteers appointed to plan and organize the party. The Association had informed all attendees prior to the event that swimming was no permitted. Despite that, Boyum and others began jumping into the pool. According to the Homeowner, she moved away from Boyum to avoid being knocked into the pool, but Boyum ran into her from behind and knocked her to the ground. The Homeowner’s face and right hand struck the concrete pool deck.
The incident occurred during an Association-sponsored social event at a pool, organized by volunteer Stacy Boyum. Despite the Association’s explicit instruction that swimming was not allowed, Boyum, who was responsible for party planning and hosting, encouraged a guest, Doreen Muhs, to enter the pool. A struggle ensued, resulting in Muhs being knocked down and seriously injured.
Muhs filed a lawsuit against both the Association and Boyum, alleging negligence. However, the court found that Boyum’s actions were not within the scope of her duties as a volunteer and therefore, the Association was not vicariously liable for her conduct. Boyum’s act of encouraging Muhs to enter the pool was not similar or incidental to her assigned tasks for the Association.
The court’s decision highlights the importance of clarifying volunteers’ roles and ensuring their actions align with their designated responsibilities. Individuals can have individual liability even while employed by or acting in connection with the HOA. In this case, the Association was not held liable for the volunteer’s actions, emphasizing the need for clear guidelines and boundaries during Association-sponsored events to prevent such incidents and legal complications. However, it is important to note that an individual could still be held liable for actions taken while employed by the HOA, if such actions are outside their scope of duties.
While this case was decided by the Appellate Court in Illinois, and not in North Carolina, it provides valuable insight into how courts often decide matters of liability involving community associations and the importance of having clear guidelines for Association volunteers.
Author: Hunt Harris
Articles have been Reprinted with permission from Black, Slaughter, Black.
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