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California Supreme Court Sides With CAI: Community Association Boards Deserve Judicial Deference

8/12/1999  -  Alexandria, VA

Saying it will not second-guess maintenance decisions made by a community association board of directors, the California Supreme Court overturned a Court of Appeal decision that would have encouraged costly and frivolous litigation, according to the Community Associations Institute. CAI filed a "friend of the court" brief in the case of Lamden v. La Jolla Shores Clubdominium Homeowners Association, in which a homeowner sued her community association for spot-treating a termite infestation rather than fumigating the entire building.

"We are very pleased with the court's decision to adopt a rule of judicial deference to community association board decision-making when homeowners seek to litigate ordinary economic and maintenance decisions entrusted to the board's discretion," said St. Louis attorney Marvin J. Nodiff, chair of CAI's Government and Public Affairs Council.

According to the decision by the California Supreme Court, "where a duly constituted community association board, upon reasonable investigation, in good faith and with regard for the best interests of the community association and its members, exercises discretion within the scope of its authority under relevant statutes, covenants and restrictions to select among means for discharging an obligation to maintain and repair a development's common areas, courts should defer to the board's authority and presumed expertise."

"This unanimous decision is a major confirmation of the role of community association boards of directors in making decisions in the best interests of the community without risking costly and frivolous litigation," said Robert M. Diamond Esq., past president of CAI and one of the authors of the amicus curiae brief. "The ruling will benefit community associations by making it harder for a single dissident to challenge decisions blessed by the majority and constitutes a victory for the principles of self-governance."

The amicus curiae brief was written by Diamond and Michael S. Dingman Esq., Hazel & Thomas P.C., Falls Church, Va.; and Michael A. Banzhaf Esq., Hazel & Thomas, Leesburg, Va. Pam Dunn Esq., attorney for La Jolla Shores Clubdominium Homeowners Association, Robie & Matthi, Los Angeles, prepared the brief on behalf of the association. Jim Lingl Esq., Knopfler & Robinson PLC, Camarillo, Calif.; David Swedelson Esq., Swedelson & Gottlieb, Los Angeles; and Steven Weil Esq., Berding & Weil LLP, Alamo, Calif., all reviewed the brief.

The Community Associations Institute is a nonprofit association created in 1973 to educate and represent the nation's 205,000 community associations—condominium associations, homeowner associations and cooperatives. CAI members include homeowners, associations and related professionals and service providers.


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