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Denominations' Liability for Injuries Occurring on Church Property

Who is liable when someone is injured on church property?

A Pennsylvania court addressed the issue of a denomination's liability for an injury occurring on an affiliated church's property. A young child was injured in 1984 when a tombstone fell on her in a cemetery owned by a Lutheran church. The child's parents sued the Lutheran Church in America (LCA) along with the Central Pennsylvania Synod of the Lutheran Church in America. The parents claimed that the LCA and Synod were legally responsible for the injury since the church that owned the cemetery had closed in 1971 and title to its assets had reverted to the LCA and Synod. As owners of the property, the LCA and Synod were responsible for the child's injuries on the basis of their "negligent maintenance" of the cemetery. The parents relied on the following paragraph in the LCA Constitution (and a similar paragraph in the Synod Constitution):

A synod may declare a congregation within its ...

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Posted:
  • March 2, 1992

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