Personal Injuries – Part 1

On Church Property or During Church Activities

Church Law and Tax 1989-11-01 Recent Developments

Personal Injuries – On Church Property or During Church Activities

Is a church legally responsible for the emotional distress suffered by the parents of a three-year-old child who wandered away from a church-operated child care center and who was found and returned unharmed by a neighbor two hours later? No, concluded a state appeals court in Ohio. The parents had dropped their child off at the church in the morning, and were called later that day by a church employee who informed them of the incident. The parents claimed to have suffered “severe emotional distress” as a result of the incident, and they sued the church on account of its “negligent infliction of emotional distress.” A trial court ruled in favor of the church, and the parents appealed. The state appeals court also ruled in favor of the church. It noted that under Ohio law the parents’ claim of “negligent infliction of emotional distress” required a finding that their emotional distress was a “reasonably foreseeable” consequence of the church’s negligence. “Reasonable foreseeability,” observed the court, requires three findings—(1) the parents were near the scene of the accident, not a distance away; (2) the parents “contemporaneously observed” the accident rather than learn about it from others some time later; and (3) the parents and the victim (the child) were related. Since the parents were “not near the scene of the incident” and “did not observe [their son’s] wandering but learned of it hours later after [his] safe return,” their emotional distress was not reasonably foreseeable and accordingly the church was not liable for negligent infliction of emotional distress. Of course, had the child not been found, or had he suffered any type of injury, the church could have been sued for “negligent supervision” of children under its custody and control. There is little doubt that the church would have been legally liable in such a case. Therefore, the Ohio ruling should not be interpreted as creating any form of legal immunity for churches that operate child care centers. The court ruled in favor of the church solely because the child had been returned unharmed, and the parents were unable to prove all of the technical elements necessary to support their claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress. Edwards v. Mt. Washington Baptist Day Care Center, 541 N.E.2d 465 (Ohio App. 1989).

Related Topics:

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations." Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

ajax-loader-largecaret-downcloseHamburger Menuicon_amazonApple PodcastsBio Iconicon_cards_grid_caretChild Abuse Reporting Laws by State IconChurchSalary Iconicon_facebookGoogle Podcastsicon_instagramLegal Library IconLegal Library Iconicon_linkedinLock IconMegaphone IconOnline Learning IconPodcast IconRecent Legal Developments IconRecommended Reading IconRSS IconSubmiticon_select-arrowSpotify IconAlaska State MapAlabama State MapArkansas State MapArizona State MapCalifornia State MapColorado State MapConnecticut State MapWashington DC State MapDelaware State MapFederal MapFlorida State MapGeorgia State MapHawaii State MapIowa State MapIdaho State MapIllinois State MapIndiana State MapKansas State MapKentucky State MapLouisiana State MapMassachusetts State MapMaryland State MapMaine State MapMichigan State MapMinnesota State MapMissouri State MapMississippi State MapMontana State MapMulti State MapNorth Carolina State MapNorth Dakota State MapNebraska State MapNew Hampshire State MapNew Jersey State MapNew Mexico IconNevada State MapNew York State MapOhio State MapOklahoma State MapOregon State MapPennsylvania State MapRhode Island State MapSouth Carolina State MapSouth Dakota State MapTennessee State MapTexas State MapUtah State MapVirginia State MapVermont State MapWashington State MapWisconsin State MapWest Virginia State MapWyoming State IconShopping Cart IconTax Calendar Iconicon_twitteryoutubepauseplay