Friday, November 20, 2009

Defamation in the Association

The topic of what, if anything to do about idiots who say and print defamatory remarks about directors and other in the context of community association operations is far too common.

Here is an actual inquiry and my reply, which accurately sums up my analysis of the issue...

On Fri, Nov 20, 2009 at 3:47 PM, XXXXXXXX wrote:

Dear Bob:
I received a copy of a letter that has been mailed out to [all] homeowners. I feel it is a defamation against me. Do I need Board approval to send it to you for your advise? If there is a charge for this question, please bill me seperately from the Association.....

Hi XXXXX; I'd be happy to take a look at it, but here is my view on the matter. Under Florida law, defamation is an action where the party who prevails cannot recover legal fees. Unless a letter causes you great financial (as opposed to emotional) harm, it is never cost effective to sue.

The case can go on for a year, cost you $50,000 (easily) and what financial damages can you prove and then collect?

If you get fired from your half million dollar a year position as Secretary of the Association (ha!) then it would be worth suing; I suggest you see what kind of reception the letter gets and let's decide what do to....the fact is that most people who read the rants of fools end up concluding that the fools are not worth listening to....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How about a discussion with the party roles reversed?

I am a member of an HOA, but not a Board member. I also work professionally within the community as a Florida Contractor for other members. The Board of our community decided to remove my private company from the list of private contractors allowed to work in the community and, at about the same time, issued a letter stating that our model home was built to tall and needed to be torn down. This letter made its way into the local Realtor gossip mill and I most certainly suffered damages. In addition, the HOA published their determination on line. The homes in this premier Gulf Front community start at about $1,000,000 and top out at about $9,000,000. Being an approved contractor in a community like this can be very lucrative, and has been for us in the past.

Being personally concerned with our model home, the way I was, I paid special attention to all aspects of the building and certainly its height. I know, and knew, the exact height of our building and obtained authentic surveys to rebut the community's flawed survey. In fact, the community had my correct sealed elevation survey in their files at the time they made their decision. Nonetheless, the community persisted in their course for six months even though their enforcement personnel had obtained their own revised survey showing complete compliance with the height regulations.

I served the community with the Statutory pre-suit libel demand, but they would not retract their original defamatory publication.

Do HOA's have insurance to cover such an error or act? Will their insurer pay a claim that appears to be founded on fraudulent acts of the BOD? Are they entitled to a waiver of my constitutionally afforded rights because they are a private organization?

Thanks Much, I look forward to your commentary or other reader's comments as well.