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Crafts v. The Rossmor Community Association

A-5843-03T1 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2005) (Unpublished)

CONDOMINIUMS; BY-LAWS—When a condominium unit is purchased, its buyer becomes bound by the terms of the condominium association’s bylaws supported, among other factors, on the implication that there is actual consideration between the buyer and the association.

A woman purchased a condominium unit. About five years before the purchase, the association “adopted an amendment to its bylaws which provide[d] in pertinent part that [the association] shall not be liable in a civil action brought by a unit owner seeking damages for bodily injury except when the injury is the result of an act or omission that is willful, wanton or grossly negligent.” After the woman slipped and fell on a sidewalk in the condominium complex, she sued for damages, but did not allege the association’s “gross negligence or some act or omission that was willful or wanton.” The lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the association. The woman appealed arguing that the bylaw provision was “void as against public policy.” She also argued that it should not be enforced because of “an inequality of bargaining power” between her and the association and because she had no notice of the provision in the bylaws. She also argued that she received no consideration for agreeing to the exculpatory cause. Both the lower court and the Appellate Division found no merit to her contentions. The limitation of liability in an association’s bylaws is expressly permitted by N.J.S.A. 2A:62A-13. That statute allows the bylaws of a qualified “common interest community” to contain the very provision that was included in this association’s bylaws. Further, the term “common interest community” is defined to include condominiums. For that reason, the limitation of liability in the bylaws was not void as against public policy.

The woman conceded that she was represented by an attorney when she acquired her unit. Her contention that her copy of the bylaws did not contain that limitation was rejected because “if a copy of the bylaws was not provided to [her] and her attorney at the time of purchase, surely a copy was available upon request.” As to the contention that she had not received value for a waiver, the Appellate Division held that “[t]he exchange of consideration between [her and the association] upon the purchase of the unit [was] sufficient to bind [her] to the terms and conditions upon which the unit was sold.”

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