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Murphy v. Yacht Cove Homeowners Ass’n – Case Brief Summary (South Carolina)

In Murphy v. Yacht Cove Homeowners Ass'n, 289 S.C. 367, 345 S.E.2d 709 (S.C. 1986), the Supreme Court of South Carolina held "that a member of a condominium association" had standing to "bring an action in contract or tort against the association." 345 S.E.2d at 710.

In that case, joint owners of a condominium unit brought a negligence action against Yacht Cove Homeowner's Association ("the Association"), an unincorporated condominium association, for failure to maintain the common elements after one of the owners suffered physical injury in the common area. Id. at 709.

The Association raised imputed negligence as a defense, arguing that, as members of an unincorporated association, each member is both a principal and agent for the other members of the Association, and thus the negligence of each member must be imputed to every other member. Id. Accordingly, the Association concluded that the joint owners "should be precluded from maintaining an action for negligence against the Association." Id.

The Supreme Court of South Carolina disagreed with the Association, reasoning that, "since the association can sue a member for failure to adhere to the bylaws, rules, and regulations, a member necessarily can sue the association for this same failure." Id. at 710.

In so holding, the Court relied on its opinion in Queen's Grant Villas Horizontal Property Regimes I-V v. Daniel International Corp., 286 S.C. 555, 335 S.E.2d 365 (S.C. 1985), stating:

This Court has addressed the question of whether a property regime has standing to sue for defects in the common elements which it has a duty to maintain. Queen's Grant Villas Horizontal Property Regimes I-V v. Daniel International Corporation, 286 S.C. 555, 335 S.E.2d 365 (1985); Roundtree Villas Association v. 4701 Kings Corporation, 282 S.C. 415, 321 S.E.2d 46 (1984). We have noted that "should the Regime not uphold its duty to pursue a recovery for any alleged construction defects in the common elements which it maintains, it may be liable to the homeowners for its omissions." Queen's Grant, 286 S.C. at 556, 335 S.E.2d at 366. This necessarily implies that an association can be sued by the unit owners for its failure to discharge its duties. (Murphy, 345 S.E.2d at 710.)