Key point 10-11.A church may be legally responsible on the basis of negligent supervision for injuries resulting from a failure to exercise adequate supervision of its programs and activities.
Negligence as a Basis for Liability
A North Carolina court ruled that a church could be liable for serious injuries suffered by a woman during a church-sponsored "hayride." In October of 1998 a church conducted its annual Halloween festival on a farm owned by a church member. As part of the festivities, the church organized a hayride. Several children rode through the woods and around the farm on a flatbed trailer pulled by a farm tractor driven by the farmer's son. A woman ("Katie") who was not a member of the church was invited to help with the hayride by standing in the woods and making scary noises. When the last hayride of the night passed by, Katie came out from the woods and started walking alongside the flatbed. While walking, she saw a child near the edge of the trailer, waving his arms and appearing to be losing his balance. She stepped up to the side of the trailer, and as she pushed the child back onto the trailer bed to prevent his fall, she fell under the trailer. She was impaled by part of the trailer, dragged underneath the trailer for a short distance, and finally run over by the trailer, suffering extensive and permanent bodily injuries. Katie sued the church, claiming that it was responsible for her injuries on the basis of negligent supervision. A trial court dismissed the case, and Katie appealed.