Personal Injuries – Part 3

On Church Property or During Church Activities

Church Law and Tax 1989-01-01 Recent Developments

Personal Injuries – On Church Property or During Church Activities

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that a church-operated school located on church property could be sued by a pedestrian who suffered permanent injuries when she slipped on a sidewalk abutting the school that had not been cleared of snow and ice. Such a result, concluded the court, was “less harsh than imposing the entire loss on a pedestrian injured by the negligent maintenance of a sidewalk,” and “would in no way interfere with the exercise of religion” by the church. Further, requiring church schools to clear abutting sidewalks of snow and ice “would not greatly add to the type of maintenance tasks [such schools] routinely undertake.” Finally, the court rejected the church’s claim that the state “charitable immunity law” (which prevents charitable and religious organizations from being sued in some cases by their “beneficiaries”) prevented it from being sued—since the injured pedestrian was not a beneficiary of the church. While acknowledging “the good works performed by religious and charitable organizations,” the court concluded that “religious institutions do not enjoy an absolute immunity from worldly burdens.” Brown v. St. Venantius School, 544 A.2d 842 (N.J. 1988).

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