Court Ruled Member Could Recover Damages Against Church If He Could Establish That the Church Had Breached a Duty of Care

Can a church be liable for injuries sustained by a member shortly after leaving a

Can a church be liable for injuries sustained by a member shortly after leaving a church retreat in an emotionally disturbed condition? That was the issue before a New York state court.

The member left the retreat in an "emotionally unstable condition" with the knowledge of the church, lay down on a set of railroad tracks, and lost both legs when he was hit by an oncoming train. The member sued the church, arguing that it had been remiss in allowing him to leave the retreat in a state of "severe psychological distress."

The church asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit on the ground that the member had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted since (1) there was no evidence that the church had acted improperly, and (2) the lawsuit violated the constitutional guaranty of religious freedom.

The court rejected the church's request, noting that the member could recover damages against the church if he could establish that the church had breached a duty of care toward him.

Alba v. Long Island Railroad Co., and St. Cecilia's Roman Catholic Church, 528 N.Y.S.2d 39 (1988)

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