A South Carolina homeowners association recently learned an expensive lesson when it comes to making representations that one of its owners is a registered sex offender—an $890,000 lesson!
The South Carolina registered sex offender registry identified William James King as a sex offender convicted of committing a lewd act upon a child. The registry also contained a photo of the offender and physical description. Certain board members circulated the sex offender listing around the community and represented that William James King, Jr., an owner in the community, was that very sex offender.
Owners that new William James King, Jr. explained this was not the same the person, but the board members continued to distribute the flyers and make the representation. As one might imagine, William James King, Jr. sued the association, and during trial it came to light that not only was he the wrong man, but he didn’t even have a criminal record. The jury awarded William James King Jr. $550,000 in actual damages and $340,000 in punitive damages, for a grand total of $890,000.
What’s the lesson to be learned here? One lesson is to never make representations concerning owners’ or residents’ sex offender status. Although it is acceptable to refer owners to the sex offender registries and other public information sites, it is not okay to go beyond this.
What are your thoughts on this issue? Should associations ever do anything beyond referring owners to sex offender informational sites?