Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Volunteers' IRAs May Not Be Seized to Satisfy a Judgment
Not all of a volunteer's personal assets may be available to pay for damages.
New Jersey
Key point. Volunteer workers are personally liable for acts of sexual molestation they commit in the course of their duties. However, their IRAs and pension funds may not be accessible to satisfy a judgment or verdict.

A New Jersey court ruled that the IRA account of a volunteer worker who molested a child could not be seized to satisfy a jury verdict against him. The volunteer served as a swimming instructor for a public elementary school. Following a swimming lesson an 8-year-old girl complained that the instructor had touched her in the vaginal area. As a result of this incident the instructor was convicted of child molestation and was sued in a civil lawsuit by the girl's parents. A jury returned a verdict of $325,000. The family's attorney attempted to seize the volunteer's IRA account in an effort to satisfy the verdict. A court ruled that the IRA account could not be used to satisfy the verdict. It based its ruling on a state law that makes "trust funds" exempt from the reach of creditors. The court concluded that IRA accounts are a form of trust fund.

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Posted: May 1, 1997
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