Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Injuries During Church Activities
A New York court recently dismissed a woman's lawsuit.

A New York court dismissed a lawsuit brought against a church by a woman who was injured during a church-sponsored activity. The woman and her husband attended a "country fair and barbecue" sponsored by her church. Following dinner, the couple took a raft ride on a nearby lake. After the ride, they were directed to walk on a back lawn area to return to the front of the church building. Closing time for the fair was 7:30PM, and since that time was approaching, workers were closing the various booths and exhibits. As the woman walked up a sloping lawn around the outside of a large tree, she slipped and fell, injuring her leg. She claimed that she slipped on ice cubes that were on the ground. Her husband testified that he saw ice cubes and crushed ice on the ground just before his wife fell.

The church asked the trial court to dismiss the lawsuit, but this request was denied. The church appealed, and a state appeals court dismissed the case. The court concluded that "plaintiff was required to demonstrate … that the condition was caused by [the church's] agents or existed for a sufficient period of time to require [the church] to have corrected it." Since the woman offered no evidence that an agent of the church caused the ice to be discarded on the lawn, or that the ice had been on the lawn for an unreasonable amount of time without being corrected, the lawsuit had to be dismissed. Torani v. First United Methodist Church, 558 N.Y.S.2d 272 (A.D. 3 Dept. 1990).

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Posted: May 1, 1991
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