• Key Point. Churches are not necessarily responsible for the theft of coats from unattended coat racks or rooms.
A Georgia court ruled that a private club was not legally responsible for the theft of a womans coat. This ruling is of direct relevance to every church that has coat racks or rooms for the convenience of their members and guests. The court, in concluding that the organization was not responsible for the loss of the womans coat, observed:
[S]he had an opportunity to avoid any risk attributable to an unattended cloakroom …. [O]nce she arrived at the club and saw the unattended cloakroom … she knew, or should have known, that no attendant was provided. She left her valuable coat in the cloakroom knowing that it was unattended; she assumed the risk of theft. She therefore cannot recover for the consequences of that risk.
Application. Most churches have a room where members and guests can store coats during services and other activities. Occasionally, coats are stolen or removed by accident. This case illustrates that churches are not necessarily legally responsible for the loss of a coat from an unattended coat room-since persons who leave a coat in an unattended room “assume the risk” of theft. Athens Country Club, Inc. v. Jackson, 481 S.E.2d 904 (Ga. App. 1997). [Premises Liability]
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