• Key point. A church cannot avoid liability for injuries caused by an "inherently dangerous activity" by hiring an independent contractor to operate or conduct it.
A Missouri court found a charity liable for injuries sustained by an adult while bungee jumping at a charity-sponsored event. The charity hired an independent contractor to set up and operate a bungee jumping attraction. A 39-year-old male (the "victim") was the first to purchase a bungee jump ticket. He was weighed, and was then required to sign a "release and waiver of liability" form that stated, "The participant is fully aware that bungee jumping … is a calculated risk sport and contains inherent risk and dangers (including serious injury or death) that no amount of care, caution, instruction, or expertise can eliminate." An employee of the bungee jump company placed a harness around the victim's waist and ankles, and fastened the bungee cord to the harness. The victim and a "jumpmaster" entered the bungee cage which was then lifted by a crane to a height of 170 feet above the ground. The jumpmaster opened the cage door and told the victim that it was "safe to jump." Unfortunately, no one remembered to attach the bungee cord to the crane. As a result, the victim began freefalling head-first to the ground, oblivious to his precarious position. On the way down, he noticed the end of the bungee cord falling beside him. He was able to reverse his position so that he hit the ground feet first. He survived the fall, but sustained serious and permanent injuries. The victim sued the bungee jump company and the charity. The jury found both defendants to be responsible for the victim's injuries, and ordered the charity to pay $5 million in damages on the ground that bungee jumping is an "inherently dangerous activity."