Homeowners association may be liable in Trayvon Martin case

George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain who admitted to the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder. Zimmerman may be civilly as well as criminally liable for Martin’s death, depending on the outcome of his trial; according to David Ovalle of The Miami Herald, Zimmerman is expected to plead not guilty on grounds of self-defense.

However, Zimmerman may not be the only party held liable in a wrongful death lawsuit. The homeowners’ association of The Retreat at Twin Lakes could also be named in a lawsuit, according to a report by the Associated Press. It seems that the HOA newsletter instructed residents to contact Zimmerman in the event of a crime “so he can be aware and help address the issue with other residents.”

Roberto Blanch, a Florida attorney who advises HOAs, told the AP that the HOA’s endorsement of Zimmerman’s role as a neighborhood watch captain could be considered a contributing factor in Martin’s death. Daryl Parks, an attorney for Martin’s family, concurs. Parks stated in March that the family was likely to pursue a civil case against the HOA.

California trial lawyer Michele Hagan posted in her blog that the HOA’s case may be helped if Zimmerman signed a release of liability agreement or indemnity clause. Hagan criticizes Florida’s Stand Your Ground law for putting the HOA in this situation in the first place, drawing a comparison between the Zimmerman case and the OJ Simpson civil trial that found Simpson liable for the death of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, despite the fact that Simpson was acquitted in his criminal trial. Zimmerman may not face the same penalties.