performed their duties in compliance with the statute. The takeaway here is that directors who base decisions at least in part on the advice of the association’s professional agents reduce their individual liability for those decisions, and may rely on those few Washington case law opinions that address the issue of individual director liability. Because WUCIOA’s standard of care adopts the business judgment rule, courts should be reluctant to substitute their judgment  exercise good faith and the proper care, skill, and diligence required by the statute. For those communities that are formed prior to WUCIOA, this is one provision that might reasonably be adopted, adding a cushion of protection for their volunteer leaders as individuals.

Exercise good faith and the proper care, skill, and diligence.

The best way to avoid individual liability for volunteer leadership is to know your duty of care and meet it. When a director’s personal interest in a matter eclipses their ability to act on the association’s behalf, recusal is a safe option. Ensure that board decision making happens at duly noticed meetings where all directors can hear one another simultaneously. Act in good faith, using facts and objective evidence, including information and reports provided by agents, experts, and trusted advisors.

COVID-19 & Liability

How does COVID-19 change all of this, if at all? It should go without saying that individual  than what the entire board of directors confers. These days, association meetings having gone entirely virtual pursuant to Governor Inslee’s COVID-19 emergency orders; it is crucial not to take shortcuts. Don’t make decisions individually. Continue to deliberate and decide association business in board meetings where all members can hear one another simultaneously. If you must make a decision via email, be sure  the next virtual meeting.

Insurance Liability for Volunteers

By Ryan Stewart

The most common question asked from volunteers is “Do I have insurance, am I covered?” The answer in broad terms is yes, volunteers get coverage from a variety of association policies. The main coverage that everyone is concerned about either falls under General Liability or   Most of the time, the question from owners stems from the thought…” If I do something wrong as a volunteer, and I get sued, will the association policy protect me?” The answer is generally yes, as long as you were acting on behalf of the association. But never think of the association policy as your medical insurance; there will be limitations.

Asset or Liability?

There is much more to this question because board members and association managers should also be thinking about volunteers from the other side of this scenario. What exactly are the volunteers doing? Is the activity high risk, or low risk, and do we want these volunteers putting the association at risk? From the association’s perspective, you have individual owners, and you have the association as an entity, which are two separate parties. When volunteers, or anyone, enter onto the association property, the association is always at risk of getting sued. Anyone can trip and fall on the sidewalk, or the stairs, or the playground. Ultimately, the buck always falls onto the association. Most liability claims that I see are from owners who are injured onsite and then sue the association for bodily injury related issues.

High or Low Risk?

This is where it becomes important to use common sense by all parties when deciding if having volunteers for a project is a good idea or not. And this answer might be very different coming from an individual who just sold their single-family home vs a long-time condominium unit owner. A single-family homeowner might say, “I can use my own ladder to clean out my own gutters this year.” Or, “I can go up on my roof and blow the pine needles off. My roof is not steep, we don’t need to hire that out.” And, if that single-family homeowner falls off his/her ladder and gets injured, they can’t sue anybody else because they own their property individually. But, with an association, remember individual unit owners are different than the association entity, and a condominium unit owner can sue the association for basically anything. This means it is very important to identify high risk items and know when to hire contractors and outsource vs letting owners tackle high risk projects and risk getting injured.

I know this might not always be a straightforward answer, which is why it is important to have trusted professionals like your management company, attorney, and insurance broker partnering with the association to help deal with these types of issues. 21

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