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A Church Could Be Liable for Negligent Hiring and Supervision

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.

Key point 10-09.1. Some courts have found churches liable on the basis of negligent supervision for a worker’s acts of child molestation on the ground that the church failed to exercise reasonable care in the supervision of the victim or of its own programs and activities.

An Illinois appeals court reversed a trial court’s dismissal of a lawsuit claiming that a church was liable on the basis of negligent hiring and negligent supervision for the rape of a 14-year-old girl by the church’s youth pastor. A married couple (the “plaintiffs”) sued their church and its lead pastor for monetary damages resulting from the rape of their minor daughter (the “victim”) by the church’s youth pastor. The plaintiffs’ lawsuit, over 70 pages in length, claimed that from 2011 through 2013 the youth pastor abused his position through various forms of sexual misconduct toward female minors who were members of the church’s youth and confirmation groups. The lawsuit claimed that the youth pastor subjected the victim to persistent sexual advances before raping her in June 2013.

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