Martin/Zimmerman civil suit

by Walter Olson on April 11, 2012

In which the “self-appointed busybody vigilante” familiar from so much press coverage smoothly turns into “designated security agent of the homeowners’ association.” [Associated Press]

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Lawyers who “continue to make irresponsible statements to the media”
04.13.12 at 12:30 am

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1 wfjag 04.11.12 at 7:36 am

My understanding is that the Fla. SYG law provides a shield against both civil and criminal liability. This is a typical provision.
So, if Mr. Zimmerman is individually shielded from civil liability, how could the Homeowner’s Ass’n be held liable under respondent superior? (i.e., in non-legal terms, if the agent cannot be held liable, how can the principal be held vicariously liable?)

2 Ariel 04.11.12 at 10:43 am

He was the lead for their Neighborhood Watch, I read this before all the hype and spin, so the second characterization in your post is actually closer to the truth than the first. The use of words such as “stalking” (this from elsewhere) or “vigilante” are emotion laden words that should be avoided, especially when so inaccurate.

3 Chip 04.11.12 at 10:55 am

wfjag, the legal theory advanced here is not respondeat superior but negligence/negligent entrustment. That is, holding the homeowner’s association directly liable for its own tort, not holding it vicariously liable for Zimmerman’s tort.

4 Robert 04.11.12 at 11:08 am

Florida’s “Homeowners Associations” do have too much power. In the Zimmerman’s case, it’s condos with attached walls and there are common areas, so there’s a case for one, but many Florida counties mandate Homeowners Associations for all new developments; even single-family-detached-house developments with no common property other than a sign welcoming you into the community. (The theory is it cuts down on code-compliance expense.)

When we wanted to build a second home in 34787 (Tiger Wood’s zip code), we searched until we found a piece of land that was outside any development. This turned out to be a 20-acre parcel in an area designated as “greenspace.” We hired a lawyer and got permission to build 1 house on it.

I would not live in a community with people like George Zimmerman running around, or some board composed of my neighbors approving my roof-tile choice or fining me for having a basketball hoop or leaving my trash cans out a day after trash day.

Interestingly, property crime no lower in gated communities!

There was an interesting op-ed about Gated Communities and Zimmerman in the NY Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/30/opinion/the-gated-community-mentality.html?_r=1

5 mojo 04.11.12 at 11:43 am

I believe you first have to show that there was a crime committed before you can blame third parties.

But that’s no fun. Let’s just lynch the guy, to please Al and Jesse.

And by all means, everybody ignore the criminal acts of the madding crowd.

6 asdfasdf 04.11.12 at 12:10 pm

The more interesting question is whether Zimmerman has a claim against any of the media organizations fanning the flames of the hysteria.

(1) There would be a prima facie claim against NBC for the misleading editing of the 911 tape.

(2) Even more prejudicial, and even more pervasive, was the odd practice of many of the networks of showing pictures of Martin when he was much younger and smaller than he was at the time of his death. Could this be false light, or libel?

(3) Another claim might rise from the widely repeated meme that the 911 dispatcher “ordered Zimmerman not to follow” Martin, when the dispatcher did no such thing.

My sense is there might be a legal claim here, but getting the funds to win it, and countering the negative public perception (ironically partly fueled by the very libel a claim would try to remedy) would be a Herculean task.

7 gitarcarver 04.11.12 at 12:27 pm

Robert,

I too am a Floridian and therefore read with some interest the op-ed in the NY Times you suggested.

The moment I got to the statement “Mr. Zimmerman reacted very differently, taking out his handgun and shooting the youth in cold blood,” I knew this was more a writing of fantasy rather than opinion based on fact.

As further evidence, one need only to look at this statement:

After all, why did the police treat Mr. Martin like a criminal, instead of Mr. Zimmerman, his assailant? Why was the black corpse tested for drugs and alcohol, but the living perpetrator wasn’t?

For someone who claims to be an author who does extensive research on subject, Benjamin should know that the corpse in any death in the state of Florida that is not deemed to be “natural causes” is tested for drugs and alcohol. It is the protocol of coroner’s offices state wide. Zimmerman, on the other hand, according to state law, could only be tested if there was a suspicion he was under the influence. There was no suspicion therefore he was not tested.

I am sorry, but the op-ed you offered is nothing more than misguided, ill-informed writing for a publication of the worst kind.

8 wfjag 04.12.12 at 10:02 am

@Chip –while I understand your point, and would approach it that way, that wasn’t the question posed by the post. The question is whether the HOA can be liable for Zimmerman as their “agent.”

Always remember what you tell your clients when preparing for depos and testimony — LTTFQ and ATFQ, and not some other ____ Question.

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