Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Lawsuits Against Unincorporated Churches
Can a member of an unincorporated church sue her church?

Can a member of an unincorporated church sue the church for injuries received on church property? That was the issue before a Texas appeals court. A member of a Congregational church was taking her minor son to a church child-care program. As she entered the educational building (on the church premises), she slipped and fell, resulting in injuries to her back. She later sued the church, alleging that her injury was caused by the church's negligence. Specifically, she alleged that the church had been negligent in permitting the tile floor in the educational building to become slippery from moisture, and in failing to warn her of the dangerous condition. The victim had been a member of the church for 4 years, and she was on the church's administrative board. At the time of the accident, the church was unincorporated (it incorporated a few years following the accident). A trial court dismissed the lawsuit against the church. It concluded that an unincorporated church could not be sued by one of its own members. It further ruled that the church could not be liable for the injuries on the ground that it incorporated after the accident. The victim appealed this decision. A state appeals court agreed with the trial court's decision. The court acknowledged that Rule 28 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure permits unincorporated associations to be sued directly, but it concluded that this rule did not permit members of an unincorporated church to sue the church on the basis of injuries caused by the negligence of fellow church members or agents. The court observed:

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Posted: September 2, 1991
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