Homeowners could be sued over Trayvon Martin slaying
Retreat at Twin Lakes' homeowners will likely be sued if their crime-watch program captain, George Zimmerman, gets charged with and convicted of killing of Trayvon Martin, experts say.
By Mary Shanklin 
The Orlando Sentinel
ORLANDO, Fla. — The people who could end up paying the financial price for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin are, ultimately, the homeowners of the Retreat at Twin Lakes development in Sanford, Fla., experts say.
If their crime-watch program captain George Zimmerman is charged with and convicted of killing Martin, 17, the community's homeowner association and property-management company will likely be sued by the victim's family regarding the way the watch program was established and operated, said Donna Berger, a lawyer who specializes in homeowner-association law.
"Who will pay is every member of the association, and they will have to make special assessments. ... It's a cautionary tale for other associations."
The 6-year-old Retreat at Twin Lakes contains about 200 two-story town homes. The president of the homeowner association and other board members did not comment. The community's property-management company also did not comment.
The case has caused a nationwide furor over race and the laws of self-defense. Martin was shot to death by Zimmerman in Sanford on Feb. 26 as the unarmed black teenager was walking back from a convenience store.
Zimmerman, whose father is white and whose mother is Hispanic, has claimed self-defense, saying he opened fire after Martin punched him in the face, knocked him to the ground and began slamming his head on the sidewalk.
Black leaders and others are demanding Zimmerman's arrest on murder or manslaughter charges; state and federal authorities are still investigating.
Zimmerman was the point person for the Retreat at Twin Lakes' neighborhood watch.
DeBary, Fla., resident Jan Bergemann, who operates a homeowner-association watchdog group called Cyber Citizens for Justice, said Retreat at Twin Lakes' association should have issued guidelines that warned crime-watch members against arming themselves when doing anything that might be considered the business of the watch program: "If you don't put out guidelines, you are in deep doo-doo if something happens."
Legal judgments and settlements against an association's board members and directors are usually covered by an errors-and-omissions insurance policy, but the community's crime-watch program would not be covered because it's more of a neighborhood committee, Bergemann added.
Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.