Personal Injuries – Part 3

On Church Property or During Church Activities

Church Law and Tax 1990-01-01 Recent Developments

Personal Injuries – On Church Property or During Church Activities

A Georgia state appeals court ruled that a church was not responsible for the drowning death of a six-year-old boy who drowned in a pond located on church property. The pond was located in a fenced, wooded area owned by the church and situated next to an apartment complex in which the boy lived. The drowning victim (who could not swim) and a few friends entered the church’s property without the permission or knowledge of the church, and while they were playing a friend pushed the victim into the pond. The court noted that five conditions must be met in order for a landowner to be legally responsible for the death of a trespassing child: (1) the landowner knows or has reason to know that children are likely to trespass on the land where the condition (that caused the death) exists; (2) the condition causing a child’s death is one which the landowner knows (or should have known) would create an unreasonable risk of death or serious bodily injury to trespassing children; (3) children, because of their youth, do not discover the condition or realize the risk involved in coming into contact with it; (4) the utility to the landowner of maintaining the condition and burden of eliminating it are slight compared with the risk to children involved; and (5) the landowner fails to exercise reasonable care to eliminate the danger or otherwise to protect trespassing children. The court agreed that a trial court’s “summary judgment” in favor of the church was appropriate under the circumstances, since it was clear that the deceased boy’s parents could not prove that all five conditions were present. It further observed that “there is a consistent line of Georgia cases” holding that ponds are not “attractive nuisances” (i.e., they do not satisfy the five conditions specified above). Adams v. Atlanta Faith Memorial Church, 381 S.E.2d 397 (Ga. 1989).

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