• Key point. Churches generally are not liable for accidents that occur on their property unless church leaders were actually aware of the condition that caused the accident and failed to correct it, or the condition had existed for so long that church leaders are presumed to have been aware of it.
A New York court ruled that a church was not legally responsible for injuries sustained by a member who slipped on a puddle of water in a church hallway near a water fountain. The member acknowledged that the church would be legally responsible only if the risk of slipping on water in the hallway was a reasonably foreseeable hazard. However, she insisted that this hazard was foreseeable because the church had placed a stool under the water fountain to allow children to access it. She alleged that it is common knowledge that children who use water fountains cause spills and puddles on the surrounding floor. As a result, the risk of an adult slipping on a puddle of water near the water fountain was foreseeable. The court disagreed. It concluded,