Recent Developments

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Church Narrowly Avoids Liability in Advertising Services of Babysitter Who Later Molested Children
Key point 10-04. A church may be liable on the basis of negligent selection for a worker's molestation of a minor if the church was negligent in the selection of the worker. Negligence means a failure to exercise reasonable care, and so negligent selection refers to a failure to exercise reasonable care in the selection of the worker. Liability based on negligent selection may be imposed upon a church for the acts of employees and volunteers.

A Texas court ruled that a church was not liable for the sexual molestation of two children by a teenager who had been selected as a babysitter by the victims' parents due to false information in a flyer that had been made available to parents of young children. In the summer of 2007, a married couple (the "plaintiffs") enrolled their two young sons in a church-operated childcare center. A 20-year-old college student (Lydia) worked at the center as a teacher and swimming instructor in a summer job between her junior and senior years of college. Lydia's mother (Beth) spent the first part of the summer of 2007 teaching vacation Bible school at the church. She had five years' prior experience working at the childcare center and wished to return to work there. She applied and, in August, the center rehired her to work as a teacher. Her class included one of the plaintiffs' boys and she developed a warm rapport with the parents.

After Lydia returned to college in the fall, she asked her mother to circulate a flyer to school parents to let them know that she would be available for babysitting during her winter break. The school often circulated flyers that advertised events and personal services by placing them in the children's backpacks. Under the school's policy, it prescreened each proposed flyer. If the school approved the flyer, it charged $20 to circulate it.

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