Recent Developments in Florida Regarding Personal Injuries on Church Property or During Church Activities

The Florida Supreme Court ruled that a funeral home was responsible for injuries sustained by a woman who was involved in an accident while driving her vehicle through a red light at a busy intersection as part of a funeral procession.

Church Law and Tax1998-01-01

Personal Injuries-on Church Property or During Church Activities

Key point. A church may be liable for accidents that occur during a funeral procession.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled that a funeral home was responsible for injuries sustained by a woman who was involved in an accident while driving her vehicle through a red light at a busy intersection as part of a funeral procession. The woman claimed that the funeral home was aware that the procession would pass through a major intersection, that many guests were from out—of—town and were not familiar with the traffic route, and that the vehicles in the procession could not all pass through the intersection on a green light. Despite this knowledge, the funeral home (1) failed to use law enforcement personnel to direct traffic; (2) failed to properly supervise the procession; (3) failed to advise guests of the potential traffic hazards; (4) failed to provide guests with written instructions on participating safely in the procession; and (5) encouraged guests to “keep up” with the procession regardless of traffic lights. The court ruled that the funeral home could be liable on the basis of negligence under these circumstances for injuries sustained by a guest participating in the procession.

Application. This case involved the liability of a funeral home for an accident occurring during a funeral procession that originated from its facility. Had the funeral been conducted at a church, it is possible that the church could also have been liable of the injury on the basis of negligence. Whenever your church conducts a funeral on its premises, and a funeral procession leaves from your parking lot, here are some steps you can take to reduce your risk: (1) Provide guests with written instructions to the cemetery, and advise them that there will not be a formal funeral procession. (2) If you want to have a funeral procession, retain the services of your local police or highway patrol to help in organizing and supervising the procession. (3) If you have a funeral procession, provide guests with written instructions. For example, inform guests that they must use their headlights, and if they become separated from the group they will be required to obey all traffic signals. (4) If you have a funeral procession, choose a route that avoids traffic hazards (such as major intersections), even if it longer. Union Park Memorial Chapel v. Butt, 670 So.2d 64 (Fla. 1996). [Negligence as a Basis for Liability]

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