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Clarifying When Churches Are and Aren’t Liable for the Actions of Volunteers

Key point 10-02. The doctrine of respondeat superior imposes vicarious liability on employers for the negligent acts of their employees committed within the scope of their employment.
Key point 10-18.2. Most courts have refused to hold denominational agencies liable for the acts of affiliated ministers and churches, either because of First Amendment considerations or because the relationship between the denominational agency and affiliated church or minister is too remote to support liability.
Key point 10-17.1. Punitive damages are monetary damages awarded by a jury "in addition to compensation for a loss sustained, in order to punish, and make an example of, the wrongdoer." They are awarded when a person's conduct is reprehensible and outrageous. Most church insurance policies exclude punitive damages. This means that a jury award of punitive damages represents an uninsured risk.

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Posted:
  • December 23, 2015

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