Jovanovic v. Wedgewood Knolls Condominium Association, Inc.

A-5297-99T1 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2002) (Unpublished)
  • Opinion Date: November 12, 2002

CONDOMINIUMS —Even where a condominium association dragged its feet in repairing a fire-damaged unit and was required to pay the excess insurance proceeds to the unit owner, its behavior was found to be far below the required “outrageousness” to support are award of punitive damages.

A fire destroyed a condominium unit owner’s unit and damaged two adjoining units. The association filed an insurance claim and eventually collected on that claim. Repair of the unit took quite some time and there was a great deal of friction between the unit owner and the association. Even when construction was completed, the association would not allow a final walk through until the unit owner signed a release. A suit followed and eventually the court awarded damages to the unit owner based upon the difference between the amount of money collected by the association from its insurance carrier and the lesser amount that was used for the repair. The lower court, however, would not award damages for negligence or intentional infliction of emotional distress and would not issue an award for punitive damages. In the case of the allegation that there was an intentional infliction of emotional distress, the lower court said that the association “should not be held liable for idiosyncratic emotional distress that would not be experienced by average persons. Further, the defendant’s conduct must be ‘so outrageous in character and so extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency and to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.’” The unit owner’s complaint that the association did not rebuild the unit properly, misapplied insurance proceeds, and failed to respond to the unit owner’s inquiries and complaints, did not rise to the threshold level. With respect to punitive damages, the lower court said that they are awarded only for “particularly egregious conduct. “There must be an intentional wrongdoing in the sense of an evil minded act or act accompanied by a wanton and willful disregard of the rights of another.” The Appellate Division agreed with the lower court.