Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Member Barred from Suing Charity
Man had suffered injuries on the premises of the unincorporated charity.
Key point. The members of an unincorporated organization ordinarily cannot sue the organization for injuries they sustain on its premises or during its activities.

An Indiana court ruled that a member of an unincorporated charity was barred from suing the charity for injuries that he suffered on its premises. The member was injured while diving in a lake on the charity's premises. He sued the charity to recover damages for his injuries, claiming that his injuries were due to the charity's negligence. A state appeals court ruled that the member was barred from suing the charity on the basis of the general rule that members of unincorporated associations cannot sue their association. The court referred to an earlier Indiana Supreme Court case that explained the rationale for this rule:

The theory of the general rule is that the members of an unincorporated association are engaged in a joint enterprise. The negligence of each member in the prosecution of that enterprise is imputable to each and every other member so that the member who has suffered damages through the … conduct of another member of the association may not recover from the association for such damage. It would be akin to the person suing himself as each member becomes both a principal and an agent as to all other members for the actions of the group itself. Calvary Baptist Church v. Joseph, 522 N.E.2d 371 (Ind. 1988).

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Posted: March 3, 1997
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