Key point. Churches generally cannot be liable for the acts of employees that are committed in their own residences apart from an official church activity, or after the termination of their employment.
* A New York court ruled that a church was not liable for the molestation of a young girl by a church’s youth pastor that occurred after his employment was terminated, and in his own home. A minor female was sexually molested by a youth pastor. She sued her church, claiming that it was responsible on the basis of negligent hiring, negligent retention, and negligent supervision for the youth pastor’s wrongful acts. A trial court dismissed the lawsuit, and a state appeals court affirmed this ruling. It concluded that the church could not be liable for the youth pastor’s acts since he was no longer employed by the church at the time he abused the victim. Further, the court pointed out that the abuse occurred in the youth pastor’s apartment, and so “there was no connection between his employment and the abuse of the plaintiff, as it was severed by time, place, and the intervening independent acts of the youth pastor.”
Application. This case is important for two reasons. First, it illustrates the general rule that a church is not liable for the acts of employees committed after the termination of their employment. Second, it demonstrates that a church generally is not liable for the acts of an employee committed in his or her own home, and unconnected to any official church activity. Farrell v. Maiello, 831 N.Y.S.2d 506 (N.Y.A.D. 2007).
* See also the feature article “Church Liability for the Sexual Molestation of Minors” in this newsletter.