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 California court ruled that a church was not responsible on the basis of either "premises liability" or negligent supervision for injuries suffered by a volunteer worker who fell while on a ladder repainting the church.
A church building needed repainting. A church member ("Jerry") had been self-employed doing maintenance and repair work for many years, and had done previous maintenance work at the church on a volunteer basis. Because of Jerry's experience, the pastor asked him to repaint the building as an unpaid volunteer. Jerry agreed, but told the pastor that the building must first be sandblasted to remove the old paint. The pastor agreed to supply a sandblaster. Jerry, who had used a sandblaster more than 50 times in the past, asked the pastor to supply scaffolding for him to use while sandblasting. The pastor said the church could not afford scaffolding, but offered to provide a ladder instead. Jerry had never sandblasted from a ladder before, but knew other people safely did so, and agreed. Jerry informed the pastor that he would need assistants, including someone to hold the ladder, and asked the pastor for permission to hire the men who usually worked with him. The pastor again responded by saying that the church did not have the funds to pay for these workers, and said that he would ask fellow church members to help out. Jerry agreed to this arrangement. A short time later, Jerry showed up at the church to perform the sandblasting. The church supplied a sandblaster, ladder, and three workers. One worker put the sand in the sandblaster. The others were to hold the ladder. While Jerry was sandblasting the church building from atop the ladder, the pressure from the sandblaster moved the ladder away from the building and he fell, sustaining injuries. He assumed that the ladder fell because the two workers had let go of it.