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Legal Liability of Denominations

Recent ruling favors denominations in disputes regarding liability.

Key point. Denominational organizations are not necessarily responsible for the actions of affiliated churches on the basis of agency law.

A Minnesota appeals court concluded that a Catholic church was not an "agent" of its diocese and accordingly the diocese was not legally responsible for an injury that occurred on church property. A child was killed when a gravestone fell on him in a church cemetery. The child's parents sued the church and diocese claiming that the death was due to the church's negligence, and that the diocese was responsible for the church's negligence since the church was its "agent." A trial court entered a "directed verdict" in favor of the diocese at the close of the trial. A directed verdict is an extraordinary action by a court, for a judge makes a ruling without sending the case to the jury. Directed verdicts are rare, and are issued only in cases that are ...

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  • March 1, 1996