Key point 10-16.2. Adults who voluntarily expose themselves to a known risk created by a church program or activity generally cannot sue the church if they are injured as a result of that risk.
A New Jersey court ruled that a church was not liable for injuries sustained by a member while engaged in a game of tug of war during a church-sponsored picnic, because the member assumed the risk of injuries that were "common, frequent, expected and inherent in the activity itself." A church member (the "plaintiff") was injured when he voluntarily engaged in a game of tug of war during a church picnic at a public park. The plaintiff claimed that he sustained injuries as a result of the opposing tug-of-war team pulling and releasing the rope too early, which caused team members to collide. The plaintiff claimed that the church's pastor, who was watching the contest, "changed the rules" of tug of war by telling the teams to pull and let go causing the other team to fall to the ground.
The plaintiff claimed that he suffered serious and permanent injuries including a torn right ACL requiring surgical intervention, as well as injuries to his head, neck, back, as well as to the bones, tissues, and ligaments. This was the second game of tug of war that the plaintiff participated in that day.
The plaintiff insisted that the church was responsible for his injuries on the basis of its negligence in supervising the event. A trial court disagreed and dismissed the case on the ground that the plaintiff had assumed the risk of the harm that caused his injuries.