A condominium association in Jeffersonville, Indiana is facing litigation after an elderly resident assaulted an association employee. Seventy-two year old Betty Haley tried to chest bump (really!) employee Reid Blasi out of her way when he blocked her exit from the pool at the Harbours Condominiums. You can see the video here.
In response to the chest bump, Mr. Blasi pushed Ms. Haley backwards into the pool.
Ms. Haley had previously been banned from the pool for "excessive splashing," but continued to use the facilities. As an aside, what can a 72-year-old woman do that constitutes excessive splashing? Were the other people at the pool upset they were getting wet? When does splashing cross the line from enthusiastic to excessive?
To top it all off, mysterious posters of Ms. Haley with sketched-in devil horns have appeared throughout the condominium, calling for her "dead or alive – preferably dead."
We can’t make this stuff up.
Banned for excessive splashing (and being the Prince of Darkness).
The association had previously warned Mr. Blasi about his aggressive nature, and Ms. Haley is facing criminal charges related to her assault of the association’s manager. It seems these two were destined to clash, and the story makes a great "anti-HOA" headline. Once you watch the video, it becomes clear instead that rather than this being a story about an HOA employee abusing an elderly woman, it is a story about a woman who refuses to accept that her gender and age do not give her the right to hit people.
This is not to say that the association does not bear any potential liability, or that Mr. Blasi should not be disciplined. Discipline is the appropriate action here, but the association should take into account the specific facts and circumstances. Arguably, Mr. Blasi acted in self defense after Ms. Haley assaulted him. Notwithstanding this, he should not have blocked her way and should have left enforcement issues to a supervisor, given his history.
The association’s liability here is not clear, and it’s possible Mr. Blasi was employed by the management company rather than the association itself. In addition, it seems to me that a jury could look at the chest bump and Ms. Haley’s history, and determine that the association is not liable for a woman who doesn’t seem to think the rules apply to her.
Stories like this make for great news bits, but the reality is this will cost the associations and association members in many ways – there is the hit from the legal fees, of course, but beyond that this news story will live on in Google long after the matter is resolved, and this can make potential buyers question their decision to purchase a unit. I hope the matter can be resolved quickly, but with a firey personality like Ms. Haley, I’m not holding my breath…