Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Woman Killed Crossing Street to Attend Mass
Court rules that church had no duty to control traffic.
Key point: A church is not necessarily responsible for injuries occurring to members who are struck by vehicles when crossing a street to access a parking lot.

The Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled that a church was not responsible for the death of a parishioner who was killed when she was struck by a vehicle while crossing a street to enter a parking lot. Three adult members of a Catholic church drove to the church to attend midnight mass on Christmas Eve. As was the practice of many parishioners, they parked their car in a small parking lot across the street from the church. The parking lot was owned by a neighboring commercial establishment, but church members were allowed to use the parking lot during church services by common consent. The parking lot was separated from the church by a public street. After mass ended, the three members left the church and proceeded to cross the street to reach their car in the parking lot. While in a crosswalk they were struck by a vehicle driven by a drunk driver. One of the members was killed, and another received severe and permanent injuries. On prior occasions the church had asked the city police to provide a traffic officer to control traffic after church services. The police occasionally provided officers in response to the church's requests if any were available. At no time did the church have a contract with the police to provide traffic officers. No representative of the church had asked the police to provide a traffic officer on the night of the accident. A lawsuit was brought against the church by the injured member and the estate of the member who was killed (the "plaintiffs"). The plaintiffs claimed that the church was responsible for the accident on the basis of the following factors:

Log In For Full Access

Interested in becoming a member? Learn more.

Posted: July 1, 1994
View All
from our store
Pastor, Church & Law, Fifth Edition

Pastor, Church & Law, Fifth Edition

Learn which local, state, and federal laws apply to religious organizations.
Managing the Legal Risks of Lay Counseling

Managing the Legal Risks of Lay Counseling

Develop specific policies and procedures that protect your church, lay caregivers, and those who receive care.
Church Issues: Waivers and Release Forms and Church Liability

Church Issues: Waivers and Release Forms and Church Liability

What these documents do—and don't do—based on statutes and court decisions made nationwide.
Avoiding Church Lawsuits

Avoiding Church Lawsuits

Create proactive procedures to avoid common reasons why churches most often go to court.

ChurchSalary

ChurchSalary

Let ChurchSalary do the work. Get personalized compensation reports for staff and pastors.