• Key point. Churches may be legally responsible for injuries that occur during youth trips as a result of negligent supervision.
A Louisiana court ruled that a church was liable for injuries sustained by a youth group member who was struck by a vehicle while crossing a busy street. This case is very instructive, and should be reviewed carefully. A church's youth minister took a group of 37 teenagers and 4 adult chaperones to an out—of—town youth evangelism conference. Most attendees were high school age. After checking into their motel, the group went to a McDonald's restaurant, which was located on a heavily traveled four—lane road. By then it was getting dark, although the area well lighted. The arrival of the youth group immediately crowded the McDonald's, filling all serving lines. Some of the boys noticed a small pizza parlor in a strip mall across the street with apparently no waiting. Several of the boys in the group decided they would prefer to eat pizza without the wait. Three of the boys asked the youth minister if they could leave, cross the street, and get pizza. The minister said yes, and walked them to the street to make sure they crossed safely. He did not lead the boys to a nearby traffic light because he considered that more dangerous. Meanwhile, three younger boys decided they wanted pizza. They assumed it was okay for them to cross the street since they saw the other three older boys doing so. The younger boys exited the McDonald's and ran across the street, passing the first group in the middle of the street in an effort to be first in line for pizza. One of the boys was "buzzed" by a speeding minivan when he was in the middle of the street. One of the members of the youth group was a 12—year—old boy with cerebral palsy (the "victim"). When he saw the other boys going to get pizza, he decided he was too hungry to wait at McDonald's. He did not ask the youth minister or any of the chaperones for permission to leave; he just left the restaurant and started across the street, without stopping or looking. In the middle of the street, he saw headlights. He lifted his arm defensively and was knocked to the ground, sustaining serious injuries.