The 28-year old volunteer, George Zimmerman, had apparently wanted to be a police officer at one time but that career never became a reality. While the coverage on this case has been constant, one issue that is not being discussed yet is what relationship the Homeowners' Association had to this Neighborhood Watch and to Zimmerman in particular.
In the coming weeks and months, more attention might turn to this Central Florida HOA especially in any civil actions the Martin family may bring. Many communities have volunteers that perform certain functions including grounds beautification and planning social events. However, the kind of volunteer security detail involved in this case creates all sorts of concerns and potential for liability.
In the Martin case, some questions for the HOA Board might be:
• Did the board request the creation of this Neighborhood Watch?
• Did the board appoint the volunteers?
• Was the board kept apprised of the Neighborhood Watch's activities?
• Did the board know that Zimmerman and perhaps other members of the Neighborhood Watch were patrolling the community armed?
• Did the board screen any of the volunteers including Zimmerman to determine that they were mentally and physically fit to serve this function?
There were incidences in Zimmerman's background that were troubling including a battery against an officer and resisting arrest. His record was expunged at some point which allowed him to carry a weapon. This tragedy is a cautionary tale for other associations out there.
Since many volunteers are not directors, officers or employees of the association, the association may have no insurance coverage whatsoever for their wrongful acts in the absence of a specific policy rider. While the Martin case deals with life and death, there are other cases where community volunteers exposed an association to discrimination and harassment claims. If your community has volunteers, you need to know what those folks are doing and you need to speak to your insurance agent to ensure that there is coverage in place should something go horribly wrong.