Key point 10-11. A church may be legally responsible on the basis of negligent supervision for injuries resulting from a failure to exercise adequate supervision of its programs and activities.
* A New York court ruled that a public high school cannot be liable for injuries occurring to students after they leave school property. A 15-year-old boy was on his way home from school when he was assaulted by a fellow high school student while exiting a subway. The boy’s parents sued the high school their son attended, as well as the board of education, claiming that they were negligent in failing to provide “adequate security and to protect students from foreseeable criminal activity.” In dismissing the parents’ lawsuit, the court observed: “A school’s duty is coextensive with, and concomitant with, its physical custody and control over a child. When that custody ceases because the child has passed out of the orbit of its authority in such a way that the parent is perfectly free to reassume control over the child’s protection, the school’s custodial duty also ceases. As a result, where a student is injured off school premises, there can generally be no [negligence, since a school’s duty of care] extends only to the boundaries of school property.”
Application. Many adolescents have been injured after leaving church property. A common example is a car accident involving a car containing one or more members of a church youth group. This case suggests that a church may not be liable for such injuries since the church’s duty of care extends only to its own property or, presumably, to off-campus church-sponsored activities. Note that this case represents a decision by a New York appellate court that may or may not be followed in other jurisdictions. Stagg v. City of New York, 833 N.Y.S.2d 188 (N.Y.A.D. 2007).