Key point 7-20.3. Churches may be legally responsible for injuries occurring on their premises while being used by an outside group, if they maintain sufficient "control" over their premises during such use.
A New York court ruled that a church was not liable for injuries sustained by a minor on its premises during a concert since the church was not in control of the premises at the time. A church allowed one of its parishioners to use its fellowship hall for a concert in return for a $100 "donation." Many of those attending the concert were minors, many of whom became intoxicated from consuming alcoholic beverages. One intoxicated attendee assaulted and injured another attendee, whose parents sued the church, claiming that its negligence in supervising the concert contributed to their child's injuries.
A state court concluded that "although the church, as owner of the premises where the injured plaintiff was attacked, owed him a duty to keep its premises free of known dangerous conditions, which may include intoxicated guests, the church did not host the party at which such drinking took place, but merely permitted a 20-year-old parishioner to use its hall in exchange for a $100 donation. Under these circumstances, the church was not under a duty to supervise the party or otherwise retain control of its premises."
What This Means For Churches:
Many churches allow community groups to use their facilities. Before doing so, there are a number of issues that church leaders should consider, including the following: