by Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA

Court Decisions Recognizing Negligent Selection Claims

§ 10.04.01
Key point 10-04.01. Some courts have found churches liable on the basis of negligent selection for the molestation of a minor by a church worker if the church failed to exercise reasonable care in the selection of the worker.

This section reviews court decisions in which a church or other religious organization was found liable on the basis of negligent selection for a worker's acts of child molestation. A few illustrative cases are summarized below.

Case Studies
  • A California court ruled that a church was responsible on the basis of "negligent hiring" for the sexual molestation of a 13-year-old boy by his pastor.[61] Evan F. v. Hughson United Methodist Church, 10 Cal. Rptr.2d 748 (Cal. App. 3 Dist. 1992). The pastor was hired after being suspended from the ministry for a number of years because of allegations that he had molested a child. The court noted that the local church's pastoral search committee was aware that the pastor previously had "stepped down" from the ministry for some reason. Yet, the church did not "investigate or make any inquiry" regarding the pastor's fitness to serve. The court observed that the local church's pastoral selection committee was aware of "some difficulty with [the pastor's] reappointment to the active ministry and understood he had been on a sabbatical of some kind … . Nevertheless, [the church] did not investigate or make any inquiry regarding [the pastor's] fitness to serve as pastor."

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