James Hauser was a passenger in a car driven by Jack Incorvia within a gated community where the roads are owned by the homeowner’s association. After attending a series of parties at homes within the community where he consumed illegal drugs and alcohol, intoxicated Incorvia drove his car off the road into a tree, killing passenger Hauser.

Hauser’s minor child, Jaylee Titus, brought this lawsuit against the homeowner’s association and its security service for premises liability damages arising from Hauser’s death on the homeowner association road.

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At the trial, the homeowner’s association and its security service explained it had no connection with the death-causing event, namely Incorvia’s careless driving. Although Incorvia lived in the community with his father, and he had been previously ticketed for speeding, evading arrest and “running stops,” the homeowner’s association argued it was not liable for Incorvia’s conduct.

Evidence produced by the trial by the plaintiff revealed Incorvia had been previously arrested or convicted of possession of controlled substances, furnishing methamphetamine to minors, and reckless or erratic driving.

If you were the judge would you rule the homeowner’s association is liable to the minor child of the deceased passenger for failure to prevent the driver on its road from causing the passenger’s death?

The judge said “no!”

There was no special relationship between the deceased passenger, James Hauser, and the homeowner’s association, which owns the roads within this private community, the judge began.

Although the passenger’s death was unfortunate, he continued, the homeowner’s association and its security service had no special duty of care to stop every driver on the association’s road to check for sobriety.

Evidence shows deceased James Hauser voluntarily became a passenger in Incorvia’s automobile, the judge explained. Neither the homeowner’s association nor its security service created the peril, namely Incorvia’s driving while intoxicated, nor did they act to increase the risk of harm to which Hauser exposed himself, the judge ruled.

Because the homeowner’s association and its security service had no involvement in this tragic situation, the association that owns the road where Hauser died has no liability to his surviving minor child, the judge concluded.

Based on the 2004 California Court of Appeal decision in Titus v. Canyon Lake Property Owners Association, 13 Cal.Rptr.3d 807.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center
).

***

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