Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Injured Board Member Sues Church
A court allowed the case to proceed.

A church board member who was seriously injured when he fell off a ladder while installing a ceiling fan in the church sued both the pastor and church. The board member agreed to donate and install ceiling fans at the church free of charge when it became apparent that the air conditioning system no longer worked. While installing a fan at an elevation of more than 20 feet, he fell of the ladder and was injured permanently. The board member claimed that the pastor and church were legally responsible for his injuries under Illinois law. A trial court dismissed the lawsuit, and the board member appealed. A state appeals court rejected the board member's claim that the church and its pastor were negligent in inadequately supervising the work or failing to provide proper equipment. The court observed: "[I]t is well-established that a landowner is not liable for injuries resulting from open and obvious dangers on the premises, including the open and obvious danger of falling from high places. We determine that [the board member's] attempt to install the ceiling fans in the church's high ceiling by positioning his ladder in the church pews was an open and obvious danger, and his injuries are therefore not recoverable from the defendants under the Premises Liability Act." However, the court concluded that the board member had presented enough evidence to sue the church for a violation of the state "Structural Work Act," which protects any person employed or engaged on a ladder while undertaking the repair of a building. The court ordered the case to proceed to trial on this basis. Coates v. W.W. Babcock Co., 560 N.E.2d 1099 (Ill. App. 1990).

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Posted: May 1, 1991
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