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 Michigan court ruled that a church was liable on the basis of negligent supervision for injuries sustained by a small boy who slipped and fell off of a piece of exercise equipment on the church's property. A young boy (the "victim") attended a church-based head start program. One day, when the class was outdoors, the victim wandered away from the other children to play on the monkey bars. He was not noticed by the teacher's assistant assigned to his class. While playing on the monkey bars, the victim fell and broke his arm. His mother sued the church, claiming that her son's injury was caused by the church's negligent supervision. A trial court dismissed that case, concluding that the victim's fall and injury "did not occur as a result of any negligence of any individual." A state appeals court concluded that there was enough evidence of negligence that the case should not have been dismissed. The court observed, "A teacher owes a duty to exercise reasonable care over students in his or her charge …. The evidence showed that three teachers were on the playground. The victim wandered away from the group unnoticed by the assistant assigned to his class, climbed on the monkey bars, fell and was injured. There was no evidence that the other teachers were supervising him. Such evidence was sufficient to create a question as to the issue of negligent supervision. It is plausible that the victim would not have wandered off from the group or at least not gone on the monkey bars unsupervised had there been proper supervision."