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Director's outburst could make her and the board the targets of a lawsuit

Her actions of accosting an elderly widow at poolside and preventing her from leaving may amount to false imprisonment.

January 04, 2009|Stephen Glassman and Donie Vanitzian

Question: I'm an elderly widow who rents a condo and keeps to myself. While sitting alone quietly near the pool, a board director made a beeline from the other end of the complex and accosted me. She hollered, "I wish I had time to sit by the pool" and "Why don't you just take my job, come to the meeting and take over?" I had no idea what she was talking about, because renters aren't allowed to be on the board.

As she kept yelling at me, the gardeners standing next to her were rolling their eyes. I got scared and was afraid she was going to hit me, so I tried to leave. She blocked me so I couldn't get out of my chair and yelled louder, "We're a prized community, and we have lots of maintenance to do! You need to be involved!" This continued for over 30 minutes. I was mortified by this treatment and haven't been back to the pool. Can I do anything about this?

Answer: The director's behavior could create potential liability for all the owners. This director's actions, in part, may amount to false imprisonment. The civil wrong or tort of false imprisonment requires that the person doing the imprisoning, in this case the director, by her acts caused you to be restrained from leaving the location where the acts occurred. The boundaries of your imprisonment do not have to be physical in nature, meaning that your inability to leave the pool area because of this director's behavior meets the definition of false imprisonment.

Consult an attorney specializing in personal injury and inquire as to the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit. You may also be entitled to recover punitive damages if the case goes to trial. The attorney will better be able to determine whether the emotional distress you suffered is actionable against the association and/or the director individually.

Because the board director was discussing association business and was accompanied by the association's gardeners at the time, it is presumed that she was acting in her capacity as an agent of the association. Boards are obligated to contact unit titleholders regarding association business, not unit renters. Unless the association's governing documents state otherwise, renters typically are not permitted to run for or be elected to an association board of directors.

This director's conduct appears to be outside the job description for association board directors. Her outburst may make her and the association the target of a lawsuit.


Send questions to P.O. Box 11843, Marina del Rey, CA 90295 or e-mail

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