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Issues that affect ministers and churches
Church Not Responsible for Pedestrian Accident Near Premises
Key point. Churches are not necessarily liable for injuries incurred by members and visitors while crossing a public street from an overflow parking lot to the main church building.

The California Supreme Court ruled that a church was not responsible for injuries sustained by a member who was struck by a car when crossing a five-lane road that separated the church from an overflow parking lot across the street. A church was located on a five-lane public road across the street from a swim school. The church had an agreement to use the swim school lot for overflow parking when the church's main lot was full. There were no traffic signals or crosswalks at the intersection used by church members to access the parking lot.

An adult male (the "plaintiff") sought to attend a seminar at the church on a rainy evening in November. When he arrived, a church member volunteering as a parking attendant informed him that the main lot was full and told him to park at the swim school lot across the street. The plaintiff, along with two others, attempted to cross in the middle of the block directly opposite the church. Midway across, he was hit and injured by an oncoming car.

The plaintiff and his wife sued the church for negligence and loss of consortium (a legal term meaning loss of intimacy with a partner). He alleged that the church created a foreseeable risk of harm by maintaining an overflow parking lot in a location that required persons to cross a busy five-lane street, and that the church was negligent in failing to protect against that risk. He also alleged that the church was negligent in failing to adequately train or supervise its parking attendants. The church moved for summary judgment on the ground that it did not have a duty to assist the plaintiff with crossing a public street it did not own, possess, or control. The trial court dismissed the case, but a state appeals court ruled that the case could proceed against the church. The church appealed to the state supreme court.

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