Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Church Not Responsible for Teen Sleepover Injury
Court rules injuries sustained during off-site sleepover are not church's responsibility.

A Connecticut court ruled that a church was not responsible for injuries sustained by a minor during an all-night "sleepover" while the group was visiting an off-site recreational facility. The victim's parents sued the church, claiming that their daughter's injuries were caused by the church's "negligence, carelessness and omissions." In particular, they claimed that the church failed to provide and supervise its own personnel in protecting the youth involved in the sleepover, and failed to supervise the recreational facility's personnel. A state appellate court dismissed the negligence claims against the church.

Failure to Supervise Church Personnel

The court quoted section 320 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts (a respected legal treatise):

One who voluntarily takes the custody of another under circumstances such as to deprive the other of his normal power of self-protection or to subject him to association with persons likely to harm him, is under a duty to exercise reasonable care so to control the conduct of third persons as to prevent them from intentionally harming the other or so conducting themselves as to create an unreasonable risk of harm to him, if the actor (a) knows or has reason to know that he has the ability to control the conduct of the third persons, and (b) knows or should know of the necessity and opportunity for exercising such control.

For the duty set forth in this section to apply, "the circumstances under which a person takes custody of another must be such as to deprive the other of his normal power of self-protection or to subject him to association with persons likely to harm him." Here, the parents "have not alleged such circumstances. They have not alleged how the circumstances deprived their then-sixteen year old daughter of her normal power of self-protection or subjected her to association with persons likely to harm her."

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