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New Jersey Expands Standing for Unit Owner Claims in Condominium Association Litigation (NJ)

October 29, 2020

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<p style="text-align: justify;">The New Jersey Appellate Court, in a published decision on October 2, 2020, expanded the scope of claims an Association may bring with respect to construction defect and consequential damage claims. In that <a href="https://njcourts.gov/attorneys/assets/opinions/appellate/published/a3502-18.pdf?c=Mmz">case</a>, the Association sued on behalf of the unit owners, asserting claims of defective workmanship in the construction of the common elements that caused consequential damages.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Among the claims asserted by the Association were claims related to the windows. Specifically, the Association asserted both product claims against the window manufacturer and construction defect claims against the window installers. However, the master deed unambiguously declared that the “windows are the property of the unit owners.” Consequently, the window parties filed a motion for summary judgment arguing the Association lacked standing to pursue the window claims. The Association countered arguing that it had maintenance responsibilities for the windows and possessed standing to assert claims for damage caused to the common elements by the window defendants’ acts or omissions. The Association further argued that it was subject to a historic preservation easement and the Association would suffer injury with respect to a violation of the same. The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment, holding that the master deed was unambiguous, and the unit owners possessed the relevant claim.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The Appellate Court reversed the “Judge's ruling that the association lacked standing to sue the window defendants for damages caused to the common elements.” Troublingly, the Court further declared that the Association possessed standing to assert claims when “common elements are damaged by the manufacture, design or installation of a component of the unit.”</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Based on this ruling, it appears New Jersey continues to expand potential construction defect claims that may be asserted.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thanks to Matt Care for his contribution to this post. If you have any questions or comments, please contact <a href="mailto:chayes@wcmlaw.com">Colleen Hayes</a>.</p>

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