A year ago, a Massachusetts jury awarded Amedeo Gallotto nearly $7.8 million.
The reason? Gallotto, an experienced boilermaker, was severely burned and traumatized in a water heater explosion at a condominium complex. He had been called to repair a leaking gasket, but the heater was still under pressure when he opened it, causing the incident.
Gallotto sued the condominium association, and a jury found that it had been negligent because its agents had failed to completely drain and depressurize the tank. Additionally, the gauges had not been updated in 41 years, skewing the thermometer reading such that Gallotto could not properly judge the pressurized conditions of the tank. This was alleged to have happened because the agents were trying to ensure that enough hot water remained for the residents to shower, as there had been a problem retaining a sufficient amount of hot water to service all of the units. Cost cutting measures had prevented the installation of new gauges and proper maintenance by an outside contractor. All maintenance had been done in-house, by people who apparently did not have the necessary expertise.
This case constitutes a cautionary tale about how condo associations can be held liable for large amounts of money due to delayed maintenance and work performed by unqualified workers. Condominium associations and similar entities must make sure they have properly trained personnel and procedures in place to avoid dangerous situations that may not seem serious but could result in significant liability for the associations. When it comes to the maintenance of their properties, condo associations must be vigilant about not putting convenience before safety, even when it seems like the time or money-saving measures are minor. Even seemingly small issues, like leaving a small amount of hot water in the tank for resident showers, can have very costly outcomes.