Can HOAs Get Sued if They Reopen Their Pool?
TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. – The HOA president of The Villas of Cypress West in Tarpon Springs reached out to 8 On Your Side (local TV station) for help, concerned they could be held liable if they reopen their pool and someone gets coronavirus.
8 On Your Side asked two different lawyers and got two different answers.
“It’s Florida, it’s getting hot and we want to be able to use our pool!” said homeowner Kathy Church. She’s one of the 25 homeowners in the complex and can’t wait to take a plunge back in the pool.
“I get the calls on people who are unhappy about the pool closed, I would say we’ve been closed for close to 6 weeks now!” said HOA President Marsha Witkowski. “But I’m worried we’ll get sued,” she said.
Pinellas County Commissioners released a document giving all HOA boards in the county right to reopen as long as they adhere to capacity, cleanliness and social distancing restrictions.
8 On Your Side reached out to real estate and small business attorney Micheal Kouskoutis to ask if the HOA board could be held liable if someone gets sick and he said no.
“I just don’t know how you could prove someone got a virus from there,” said Kouskoutis. “How can you prove that you got the virus at that pool and not at Publix or pumping gas?” he said.
To be sure, 8 On Your Side reached out to another law firm and we were surprised to get a different answer.
“While the ultimate answer is ‘It depends,’ I think ultimately the answer could be yes,” said Morgan and Morgan attorney Max Karrick.
We asked him why we may be getting conflicting answers and Karrick says it’s because coronavirus is new territory for all of us, lawyers included.
“We’re in new waters and we’re trying to navigate that,” Karrick said.
While the HOA board could get sued, Kouskoutis doesn’t think it will hold up in court.
“You could find a lawyer to sue for just about anything, so…” said Kouskoutis.
We told the HOA president their answers and Witkowski said they’re going to take the plunge with precautions. “We’re going to reopen anyways because we’re getting mixed signals now!” she said.
Church said she and others living in the community have agreed to take turns volunteering to disinfect the pool and make sure pool-goers are staying socially distant and are also encouraging everyone coming to the pool to bring their own sanitizer and disinfectant to use before and after they touch anything on the pool deck.
“Definitely we’re excited for the pool to reopen,” said Church. “I don’t mind volunteering at all!”
“We’re certainly as capable of sanitizing as we are paying for someone else to do it,” said Witkowski. “We’ll buy the right equipment, the right disinfectant and we’ll take care of it and we’ll take care of each other,” she said.
One of the lawyers gave us a printed-out document from the U.S. Masters Swimming Association that said the regular amount of chlorine in any pool is enough to kill coronavirus in the water.
Witkowski said they’ll spend the weekend getting volunteers trained on how to properly disinfect the rest of the area and they’ll open early next week.
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