Personal Injuries on Church Property and During Church Activities

A Florida court ruled that members of a school’s board of directors were not personally liable for injuries caused by the negligent driving of a minor.

Church Law and Tax2004-07-01

Personal injuries on church property or during church activities

Key point 10-02.1. Employers may be liable on the basis of respondeat superior only for the acts of employees.
Negligence as a Basis for Liability

* A Florida court ruled that members of a school’s board of directors were not personally liable for injuries caused by the negligent driving of a minor during a school-sponsored field trip. The occupants of a vehicle were injured when they were struck by a privately owned automobile driven by a high school student during a school field trip. The field trip consisted of students driving their own vehicles or riding with others to a store to purchase uniforms to wear to work in hospitals, a requirement of a “health occupations” class. One of the students was alleged to have negligently driven her mother’s vehicle, resulting in injuries to the occupants of the other vehicle. The victims sued the members of the school board, claiming that they were personally liable for the driver’s acts. They noted that in order to participate in the field trip, the students’ parents had to consent to their children driving or riding in another vehicle. The students were required to follow all of the same conduct rules that would apply when they were in class. As a result, the victims claimed that the school board was liable because the students were “under control” of the school so far as their behavior was concerned, and the student causing the accident was an agent of the school board. A court disagreed, “Inasmuch as the student in this case was neither an employee of the school board, nor driving a school board vehicle, we do not see how the school board could be liable. If the school board had chartered a bus or van to transport these students, the school board would not be liable for the negligence of the driver, because the driver would be an independent contractor.” Louis v. Skipper, 851 So.2d 895 (Fla. App. 2003).

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